Earthly life is always accompanied by the lingering fear of loss and grief, pain and death. Even in the rosiest of times, they lurk in the background while happier things take centre stage, waiting for their turn to enter the limelight and turn everything dark. No one is exempt.
CS Lewis is considered a giant of the Christian faith. He wrote many Christian books, even inspiring many who became great apologists of the faith. But not many knew that Lewis was tormented to the core when his dearest wife, Joy, suffered and endured bone cancer over five years before succumbing to it. Ever the effervescent author, he wrote a book about it in A Grief Observed. In it, Lewis wrote how it challenged all his preconceived and idealistic pronouncements about the faith. In the eye of the storm, he lost his apologetic mantle, resilience and elegant arguments. The loss of the love of his life was so painful he wrote that the death of a beloved is an amputation. The pain was that raw and real.
Worse, at those times when he questioned where God was, his prayers seemed to be met with silence. He found “a door slammed in (his) face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence” (p.3).
Yet, his faith and understanding grew after Joy’s departure. Having lived through the dark grief, he concluded, “I need Christ, not something that resembles Him…. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself” (p.50). Lewis was better for it because he was confronted with unavoidable pain, struggled with it due to the fragility of humanity, but emerged from it with a deeper understanding of God and self.
This was his own words, “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trust it?” (p.16). Indeed, CS Lewis tested his rope. And it stood the test of time, loss, grief, pain and even death. And I’m sure it will for us also.