Oftentimes when someone is facing the uncertain future at life’s end, thoughts of eternity arise. This is especially true if the person is suffering from a debilitating disease or cancer. Thoughts begin to wander and people start to wonder what kind of God would allow this kind of suffering. Wouldn’t it be better to just help this person die through physician-assisted suicide or maybe even euthanize this person if he cannot do it himself?
Lewis wrote this while mourning his wife’s death from cancer (42ff):
But oh God, tenderly, tenderly. Already, month by month and week by week you broke her body on the wheel whilst she still wore it. Is it not yet enough?
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 possibly inflict or permit them if they weren’t.
Many persons, including Christians, wonder how can a good God allow one of His own to suffer so much; many persons, including Christians, determine that God is nothing more than, in Lewis’ words, a Cosmic Sadist; and many persons, including Christians, conclude that if this is who God is, then they don’t want anything to do with God. They judge God harshly through the enormity of their pain or grief, missing what Lewis comes to understand, that there is something to our benefit in that same pain or grief or suffering; a suffering that although may bring tears to God’s eyes, He allows, because “every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2b NKJV).
Click here to read my concluding thoughts on from this book.