Thoughts on “Divine Goodness” from The Problem of Pain

I have been reading through one of the early works of C.S. Lewis recently, and I came upon a passage that brought me insight and hope. Quite a few passages have stuck out to me while I have read this book, more than I could talk about here. That is the thing about Lewis. On the way to answering a question, he presents a dozen more! And yet, I read on. But this passage I found particularly insightful:

I do not think I should value much the love of a friend who cared only for my happiness and did not object to my becoming dishonest.

C. S. Lewis, “Divine Goodness,” The Problem of Pain

As the chapter title implies, Lewis is talking about God. The majority of the chapter, as I understand Lewis, is talking about the nature of God and how that can be understood in human terms. God is love. God is perfect and without sin. He cannot have such imperfection before Himself, which is why we need Christ. Such a perfect love needs perfection, and thus the Lord disciplines us (Prov. 3:11-13). It is not as though we cannot understand this nature of God. Well, we cannot understand it completely. Instead, as Lewis says, we understand God’s love compared to our understanding of love as one might compare a perfect circle to a child’s drawing. But as we come to grips with that understanding, we struggle with the pain of correction and how that fits with a God of love.

While we do struggle, we are able to logically understand what kind of love and discipline this is from the quote above. It is common sense. God’s love is not a “kindness” love that merely seeks our happiness with this idea that we might never feel the “pain” of rejection, criticism, or shame as we run headlong into folly. Instead, God’s love is a true love that seeks our good because that Love loves us perfectly and desires something greater for us (Heb. 12:10).

Imagine a friend who merely encouraged you to do all the things your heart desired but never once warned you of the danger of particular pursuits. You said such pursuits would make you happy, and their response was, “Well, whatever makes you happy, go do that!” but they knew all along that such a path would be to your detriment. Is that love? Of course not! We would want a friend who warned, criticized, and lovingly encouraged us to do right (Prov. 27:6, 9). So it is with God. God loves enough to discipline us as a father to a child or correct us as a teacher to a student. He does this for our good. It is not as though God needs anything from us, but as His dearly loved creation, His children, He freely gives us His love and His grace.

We often chafe at God’s warnings, rules, commandments, and discipline. We rebel and make excuses and justify our actions. But a man reaps what he sows. God is full of grace, but in His love, He often disciplines us through consequences. But why should we hate His rules so? Why do we hate a parent warning of the hot stove? Why do we rebel against boundaries set up only so that we might not fall? Why do we complain when we experience our own misery in consequence of our own doing after we ignored the warning of God?

I think we sometimes view God as mean and restrictive, as though He is keeping back something good by providing us with rules. But in reality, God permits us all things except for a few (1 Cor. 6:11-13, 10:22-24). These come with natural consequences, and to follow them is for our benefit alone. Consider the Ten Commandments. Those rules are pretty simple and straightforward, and they make perfect sense. These are summed up with the command to love. These commands are only there for the good of God’s creation. Yet every day, we break them and call them unfair. How childish of us! But how wonderful is the grace of God! Here is a Friend and Father who loves us enough to correct us when we rebel and then still love us after our rebellion! This is true friendship, and it is found in the Lord.

There is so much more to this chapter, let alone the book. There is always so much depth to Lewis’ writings, even in just a single sentence! I am learning much and trying to process so much more. But my most significant takeaway from this chapter is that God is our true friend, and a friend who corrects us in our sin and loves us through Son (Jhn. 3:16-17).

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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