Monday, May 12, 2014

Difficult Questions, Easy Answers

In the movie Shadowlands, one of C.S. Lewis's friends describes him as a man who specialized in "easy answers to difficult questions".  Lewis was already famous for his Narnia books and was a popular speaker, especially on the subject of the problem of pain.  His friend Christopher was not as convinced of the truth of Lewis's view as others were.  But he got to see the ideas put to the test as he witnessed the plunge into the "dark night of the soul" that Lewis experienced after his wife Joy died.  There were no easy answers now, only dread and emptiness. How would he find his way out of the darkness? How could he explain the silence?
One of the many reasons I love the Bible is the honesty that is found there.  Honest truth, not platitudes.  Job spends many days grappling with finding his way forward after the loss of everything.  And in a supremely ironic twist, his comforters prove to be his biggest opponents.  No easy answers there.  Almost all of the prophets are called to deal honestly with the grim realities of their particular generations.  Yet, as each one does so, he is made aware of God's personal presence.  Not necessarily an answer, but a presence.  One of my favorites is Habakkuk.  He opens his book with these questions - "O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear?.....Why do You show me iniquity and cause me to see trouble?.. Why do you look on those who deal treacherously and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?"  That's a lot of questions!  He then says this - "I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected."  He expects God to show up.  That is faith.

Lewis did find the way forward, and he wrote about it in his novel Till We Have Faces.  At the end of the book, as the main character Orual finally has her chance to voice her complaints and questions, she concludes, "I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer.  You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away.  What other answer would suffice?"  Lewis found what we all need to find - not answers but presence.  Emmanuel. God with us.  Simple - yes.  Easy - no.