A Locked Door in Grief

On this Memorial Day week-end, I have been reflecting on my last post and how C. S. Lewis was so joyous in his description of heaven in The Last Battle. However his writing took a very different tone a few years later when Lewis described his own grief. In A Grief Observed, Lewis held back nothing as he wrestled with his faith in God after the death of his beloved wife, Joy.

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels — welcomed with open arms.

 But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows.  What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?” p.4

Later in the book he comes to some reconciliation with his grief and unanswered prayers

When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘No answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.’ p.80

This is one reason why in caring for a grieving friend it is better to be a silent companion rather than a “glib answer man.” Lewis, ever the philosopher, has one more observation that gave me a smile as I think about my attempts to ask the great theological questions.

Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unaswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask – half our great theological and metaphysical problems – are like that. p.81

How have you experienced grief and what support helped you the most?

Lord Jesus, grant us hope in the midst of whatever questions we may ask of you.

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