Continued from here.
The final primary purpose of pain identified by C.S. Lewis in his book, The Problem of Pain, is harder to explain, but grasping this truth can transform you powerfully. Here’s how Lewis explains it:
We cannot therefore know that we are acting at all, or primarily, for God’s sake, unless the material of the action is contrary to our inclinations, or (in other words) painful, and what we cannot know that we are choosing, we cannot choose. The full acting out of the self’s surrender to God therefore demands pain; this action, to be perfect, must be done from the pure will to obey, in the absence, or in the teeth, of inclination.”
Let me explain this concept in another way. Jesus said that to be his disciple, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. If it feels good to follow Jesus, then we might simply be following him because it feels good. If God blesses everything we do as we follow Jesus, how does He know whether we are following Jesus because we love him versus love the blessings? When God strips away all incentive to follow Jesus – when following him results in nothing but pain – will you continue to keep following him? Or will you walk away?
Lewis says that self-surrender is achieved …
when the creature, with no desire to aid it, stripped naked to the bare willing of obedience, embraces what is contrary to its nature, and does that for which only one motive is possible.”
And that is what Jesus did, only his standard was even higher than ours. God has promised that no matter how much pain He allows into our lives, He will never leave or forsake us. However, that was not the case with Jesus:
Martyrdom always remains the supreme enacting and perfection of Christianity … initiated for us … by Christ on Calvary. There the degree of accepted Death reaches the utmost bounds of the imaginable and perhaps goes beyond them; not only all natural supports, but the presence of the very Father to whom the sacrifice was made deserts the victim, and surrender to God does not falter though God ‘forsakes’ it.”
In other words, God has promised never to leave or forsake us, so we can lean into Him as we suffer while He perfects our faith. However, Jesus stayed true to God in his self-sacrifice despite the fact that God DID “forsake” him as He separated from Christ as he carried our sins and conquered death. Jesus, who made the supreme sacrifice of self-will, is now elevated above everyone and everything, having provided us with the ultimate example. That gives me chills!
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace lying down and holding a sign that says, “I give up.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]