Book Review: A Grief Observed

75 pages isn’t a lot, but C.S. Lewis perfectly embodies the principle of brevity and packs a punch in his book “A Grief Observed”.

The context of this book is the passing of his Wife, which he refers to as H. throughout the pamphlet. Below, find a few of my highlights.

“H.’s death mattered chiefly for its effect on myself. Her point of view seems to have dropped out of sight.”

^This is an example of the impact I would not want the passing of a loved one to have on me.

“And the past is the past and that is what time means, and time itself is one more name for death, and Heaven itself is a state where ‘the former things have passed away.'”

“Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the spiritualists bait their hook! “Things on this side are not so different after all.” There are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored.

Am I, for instance, just sidling back to God because I know that if there’s any road to H. it runs through Him? But then of course I know perfectly well that He can’t be used as a road. If you’re approaching Him not as the goal but as a road, not as the end but as a means, you’re not really approaching Him at all. That’s what was really wrong with all those popular pictures of happy reunions ‘on the further shore’; not the simple-minded and very earthly images, but the fact that they make an End of what we can get only as a by-product of the true End.”

“If God’s goodness is inconsistent with hurting us, then either God is not good or there is no God: for in the only life we know He hurts us beyond our worst fears and beyond all we can imagine. If it is consistent with hurting us, then He may hurt us after death as unendurably as before.”

“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. Either way, we’re for it. What do people mean when they say, ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good’? Have they never even been to a dentist?”

With my deep dislike of the dentist, this last line especially resonated with me.

“I think I am beginning to understand why grief feels like suspense. It comes from the frustration of so many impulses that had become habitual. Thought after thought, feeling after feeling, action after action, had H. for their object.”

SO WELL SAID! Incredible work, C.S. Lewis.

“Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. 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.”

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it? Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.”

“Don’t we in praise somehow enjoy what we praise, however far we are from it?”

“If my house has collapsed at one blow, that is because it was a house of cards. The faith which ‘took these things into account’ was not faith but imagination.”

May this wisdom, help you to grieve, and understand a bit of the process.

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash.

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