The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis

The Problem of Pain
C. S. Lewis
Published 1940
The Classics Club II

Unbelievers and believers alike wonder why a good and loving God would permit evil and sorrow and pain to exist. It is a great question! But C. S. Lewis admitted he could entirely answer it here in this little book, The Problem of Pain. Instead, he focused on the purpose for pain and how pain points us to someone or something higher than ourselves. 

He explained that God is holy and we are not. The problem of trying to connect human suffering with the existence of a holy God occurs when we minimize love and make man the center of everything. God made us for Himself, especially. 
To ask that God's love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us loveable. 
What we would here and now call our 'happiness' is not the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy.  
Lewis covered a chapter on human wickedness, otherwise known to God as sin. With humility, man will come to admit this capacity in himself, and it is necessary in order to begin working toward holiness. Lewis then discussed HOW man became depraved, or how sin entered man. He explained pride and self-idolatry. He said man rather obey the laws of nature than the laws of God. 

In the chapter on human pain, Lewis pointed out that it is more often men who have invented ways to inflict pain on fellow man, as well as human avarice and stupidity, than nature or God have.  But on pain of the suffering kind, this is where we have a problem. 
We are rebels who must lay down our arms. The...answer...to the question why our cure should be painful, is that to render back the will which we have so long claimed for our own, is in itself, wherever and however it is done, a grievous pain. 
It is a kind of death.
That is why Christians are told to "die daily." Lewis described pain as man's only way to God. 
Pain as God's megaphone is a terrible instrument; it may lead to final and unrepented rebellion. But it gives the only opportunity the bad man can have for amendment. It removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul. 
Lewis explained that man must surrender himself to God; and because we are so pride-filled and self-sufficient, self-surrender demands pain from suffering. 

C. S. Lewis  1898-1963


Theologians and philosophers may enjoy C. S. Lewis's arguments as to why Christians obey and follow a holy God who permits suffering and pain, in order to get our attention that we may become right with Him in our daily walk. Christians may appreciate the many beautiful expressions that Lewis makes about faith. Here are some of my favorites...
Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.  
But God wills our good, and our good is to love Him and to love Him we must know Him: and if we know Him, we shall in fact fall on our faces. 
But God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it -- made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand. 


  1. I really liked the contrast between this one and A Grief Observed. Lewis commenting on pain almost clinically and then Lewis writing about pain from experience. Two very different books.

    1. Yes, and I think it would be good to read them in order (I read Grief Observed first), and see how his thoughts about pain helped him write about his experience with grief, if any. I'd have to reread Grief to get a sense.

  2. Wonderful review! I think my parents have this book; I should pick it up soon. I've thought about this topic quite a bit this year, having experienced some unexpected downturns. While I do pray for help, I realize miracles are precious gifts and God is only gives them when or if He decides it would be in my best interest.

    1. I think so...
      Just today, I was anxious for something to take place, and when the time came , it didn't happen. And now I think, it was never meant to happen b/c it wasn't for me or it wasn't good for me. For whatever reason, God wants me to do something else. I just can't be sad about it b/c He knows better. Anyway, that's how I see things now.

  3. Your review encourages me to re read this book. Like Cleo, I remember it being rather cold. I have not read A Grief Observed but I had heard it was the more perceptive of the two as Cleo says.

    1. Well, now that I have read both, I think I would read Pain first and then read Grief. I loved the second one b/c it is more personal, more human, though more heavy. Yes, Pain is typical Lewis, matter-of-factly. But it has some lovely quotes, too.