This was an interesting read. Maybe some of you avid C. S. Lewis readers are familiar with or have read this volume before. I had not heard of it until I saw it mentioned in the footnotes of something else I was reading. A Grief Observed was originally published under the pseudonym N. W. Clerk due to the raw nature of its contents I think there was some concern with publishing these grief stricken ramblings under the name of their true author. Did I just describe the writings of the renowned and beloved philosopher, theologian, and novelist C. S. Lewis as “grief stricken ramblings?” Yes and indeed parts of this journal verge on pure theological and philosophical nonsense. After his wife Helen died of cancer Lewis began to journal some of his thoughts as he wrestled with grief, the nature of God, and reality. Lewis never intended to publish these journals because of that his unashamed honesty gives the reader an unhindered window into the thoughts and heart of Lewis as he wrestles through one of, if not the, hardest moment of his life. Mid way through the third chapter in a moment of lucid brilliance Lewis writes,

The terrible thing is that a perfectly good God is in this matter hardly less formidable than a Cosmic Sadist. The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed—might grow tired of his vile sport—might have a temporary fit of mercy, as alcoholics have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us? Well, take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possible inflict or permit them if they weren’t.

I took a picture of that page and have read it more times than I can count and have now committed it to memory. It is both a tremendous comfort and yet a selfish source of fear.

To be brief I would describe this book as brilliant nonsense because Lewis’ seems to swing between those two poles as he chronicles his grief. Grief is something we are all either too familiar with or will grow more familiar with over the passing of time. Because of that I think you should pick up this brief volume and I pray it is a comfort, a challenge, and an exhortation to drill your theological wells deep that the grace of Christ may sustain you in times of drought.

Advertisements