God is not an ER Doctor who only repairs our hurts; He is a Master Surgeon who plans our hurts in order that He might do us greater good. -John Piper
The following excerpt from The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis explains the dangers of percieved self-sufficiency and how God sometimes allows crisis and pain as a gift of grace.
“If the first and lowest operation of pain shatters the illusion that all is well, the secondshatters the illusion that what we have, whether good or bad in itself, is our own and enough for us.
Everyone has noticed how hard it is to turn our thoughts to God when everything is going well with us. We ‘have all we want’ is a terrible saying when ‘all’ does not include God.
We find God an interruption.
As St. Augustine says somewhere, ‘God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full—there’s nowhere for Him to put it.’ Or as a friend of mine said, ‘We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it’s there for emergencies but he hopes he’ll never have to use it.’
Now God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as He leaves us any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for. While what we call “our own life” remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him. What then can God do in our interests but make “our own life” less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible source of false happiness?
It is just here, where God’s providence seems at first to be most cruel, that the Divine humility, the stooping down of the Highest, most deserves praise. We are perplexed to see misfortune falling upon decent, inoffensive, worthy people—on capable, hard-working mothers of families or diligent, thrifty little tradespeople, on those who have worked so hard, and so honestly, for their modest stock of happiness and now seem to be entering on the enjoyment of it with the fullest right.
How can I say with sufficient tenderness what here needs to be said? . . . Let me implore the reader to try to believe, if only for the moment, that God, who made these deserving people, may really be right when He thinks that their modest prosperity and the happiness of their children are not enough to make them blessed: that all this must fall from them in the end, and that if they have not learned to know Him they will be wretched.
And therefore He troubles them, warning them in advance of an insufficiency that one day they will have to discover. The life to themselves and their families stands between them and the recognition of their need; He makes that life less sweet to them.
I call this a Divine humility because it is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up ‘our own’ when it is no longer worth keeping.
If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms;
But He is not proud.
He stoops to conquer.
He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is ‘nothing better’ now to be had.
The same humility is shown by all those Divine appeals to our fears which trouble high-minded readers of Scripture. It is hardly complimentary to God that we should choose Him as an alternative to Hell; yet even this He accepts.
The creature’s illusion of self-sufficiency must, for the creature’s sake, be shattered; and by trouble or fear of trouble on earth, by crude fear of the eternal flames,God shatters it ‘unmindful of His glory’s diminution’. ..And [because] this illusion of self-sufficiency may be at its strongest in some very honest, kindly, and temperate people, and on such people, therefore, misfortune must fall.” (1)
Saints, if you find yourself in such a place of painful “interruption,” I pray you would be encouraged in our Lord today. He has not led you to this place to abandon you, but to refine you.
“But [the Lord] said to me: My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!”
-2 Cor 12:9
O Lord help us to see that all is grace!
Pitch Thy tent over us and dwell with us in the midst of trials and suffering which You have ordained, for our good and Your glory. Interrupt us where we need inturrupted. Disturb us according to Thy will. Shatter our illusions of self-sufficiency that You may reign supreme in our lives, and be our all-in-all.
Help us in our deepest “cellar[s] of affliction,” to find Your “choicest wines” reserved there for us. (2)
(1) C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain. The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics, (New York: Harper One, 2002).
(2) From quote by 17th century theologian, Samuel Rutherford: “When I am in the cellar of affliction, I look for the Lord’s choicest wines.”
Crisis and Suffering as Gifts of Grace is a re-post from the 2012 archives.