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God, Pain and Perspective on 9/11 and Always

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Photo by Scott Haynes

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains.” – C.S. Lewis

I have seen this quote around the Internet. To me, it sounds hopeful, and the photos accompanying the sentence reflect a comfort. God appreciates our joy, gives us a little poke in the shoulder when we are trying to figure out the next right thing, but He truly shines at our most difficult moments, when He shouts: “I will take care of you. Listen to me, it will be okay. I got it.”

But words and meanings are often truncated, taken out of context and molded to fit what we want to believe rather than what the speaker or writer intended.

Here are the lines surrounding the quote:

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis

The extra sentences changes the entire idea of God shouting — as though pain is the only way to get through to us humans. We are sick and dying and we seem to care more about the newest iPhone than children dying in another country or even next door.

We would rather be right than be happy and we would rather be comfortable than do right.  We stand deaf to our neighbor choosing mockery and degradation over conversation and debate.

While I see so much beauty in this world, through my children, sunsets, cat purrs, holding my husband’s hand, wearing sweatpants, cute shoes, and cartwheels, I am fearful of the miscalculations we as a world and a country have made.

As a child, I was taught at school and home that we are more alike than different, not to litter and to get good grades so I could do anything I wanted to do.

As a grownup, I learned that people are out to kill other people because of how they look or pray or love, the Earth is dying and good grades don’t provide childcare or time.

I know that my childhood view was simple and idealistic, but I miss it. The answers today are so complex and so variable that they don’t even seem like answers. They are ideas and impossibilities. They arouse futility and hopelessness.

However, when C.S. Lewis’ book, The Problem of Pain, is read in its entirety, I am wrong in my assessment of those three lines from it. I find the anniversary of 9/11 to have so much shouting and so little listening within the pain that I cannot see where C.S. Lewis is going. He is actually arguing that allowing pain is a part of loving, and if God loves us, He must allow pain. God uses the pain to have or get us trust Him more and our finite selves less.

Pain and change and discomfort and fear have always been and will always be. Maybe our world is not so different from 12 years ago or 1200 years ago. At least not on the inside, where the pain and the pleasure and the shouting is. Maybe we haven’t changed much at all because of 9/11.

But then again, we can get stuck in the pain and forget to step back et again. We cannot ignore the rest of the story of what God and our hearts tell us to do because pain happens. We cannot only endure pain in the hope of perfecting love. We must also love. Perhaps, we must first love or think love is possible in this world. When we hold each other’s hand and remember that we are all suffering and loving and hoping and changing, in the United States, in every country, in every heart, we are truly free and living.

The problems of today are large and looming, and if pain is inevitable, why bother. Or for the believers, if pain brings us to God, why remove suffering? But love is not just about pain, nor is life. Life is bigger than one book or idea on God or self-righteous anger or prideful faith or love or loss.

Whatever we believe, we must see each of us as more than our pain if we are to live.  And if we live, truly live, we can make this world a better place on the anniversary of 9/11 and always.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

4 thoughts to “God, Pain and Perspective on 9/11 and Always”

  1. Thank you for sharing the rest of the C.S. Lewis quote! Christ came not to erase suffering, but to give us hope and peace THROUGH suffering. Well said.

  2. Once upon a time I was a philosophy major, and I wrote a lengthy research paper on St. Augustine and the existance of evil and why it’s necessary. The intricacies of the argument have faded away over the years, but this post reminds me of that paper. There has to be balance, and the key is finding a way to use the pain to strengthen the love in our lives, not just individually but as a society.

    It’s difficult to do that some days, but I can only hope we can work and struggle with it in a way that will eventually lead to good things for our children and our world.

  3. I have a strange relationship with pain. While I absolutely don’t want – under any circumstances – for pain to come and steal my life, my health, my family, etc. I wouldn’t change the pain I’ve gone through in the past (and there was a lot of it) for all the riches in the world. Because that’s what it is – riches – in terms of knowing God and growing spiritually.

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