|A dark and lonely world...|
Affliction; agonizing affliction from the depths of the soul.
Emptiness; not the void some people feel at crossroads in their lives but one bordering on despair. The kind of emptiness that wells up like a knot in the heart and makes even breathing uncomfortable.
Confusion; where nothing seems certain and nothing makes sense.
That's the torture Lewis was referring to after the death of his wife and there is much wisdom in his words.
Excruciating hardships and sorrow are possibly the greatest equalizers in the human condition. Nothing is the same before they come and nothing can ever be the same afterwards.
It is at these times when some people either turn to God or lose their faith.
I have a friend who experienced that kind of torture. His teenage son, who was excelling in school and the apple of his eyes, committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree in the backyard of his house. It was the house the family had lived together before my friend and his wife got separated and eventually divorced.
My friend partially blamed himself but mostly blamed God. He says he went into a depressive funk, locking himself in his room and refusing to come out for over a year. Up to that point, he had always been caught up in the vanity of the world; concerned about appearance and what people thought of him. But, after his son's tragic demise, he let himself go. He gained weight. Nothing seemed to matter. He lost his reason for living and in the process, his faith. In fact, he said he hated God.
It wasn't until a group of high school friends talked a former classmate turned Catholic priest to dedicate a park in his son's name, and coaxed him into attending the ceremony, that hope began to peak through the dark clouds that enveloped him.
Another good friend, an attorney at a large law firm, experienced a debilitating depression that left him useless; to the point where he couldn't sleep and reading a sentence, much less, writing one, was impossible. He couldn't concentrate. He couldn't think. He couldn't function. He hid in his office overwhelmed by torment and despondence. Only guilt kept him from doing what he wanted to do; take his own life.
Life is difficult, as M. Scott Peck writes in the first line of The Road Less Traveled. Even Jesus experienced the depths of human desolation. While hanging on the Cross, He uttered, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
In Jesus' case, He was reciting the words of Psalm 22, which Jews of His time knew very well. He was letting them know that He was the fulfillment of the prophecy and would be vindicated. In our case, it's a little more diluted.
An old high school friend is in the midst of his own Calvary. For three years, he has been mourning the death of his mother and, not long afterwards, the quick deterioration of the health of his father to the point where he doesn't recognize his own son.
He's an only child and, despite having a wife and kids, the loss of the two people he most revered, one through death, the other through illness, was hard accept. Life lost its meaning; its flavor.
He was a Born Again Christian, devoted to the Lord and the Bible. However, after his mother's passing and his father's decline, he started to drift from his faith and eventually started questioning it.
It apparently started with finding inconsistencies in what was being preached and what was being lived at his church. He also experienced the scandal of denominationalism; where one Christian group breaks away from another over disagreements on interpretations of the Bible, which is one of the many consequences of the Protestant Reformation. Soon doubt began to creep in and grew into bitterness.
His journey and search for "truth" led him to modern skeptics, the Atheist scholars, many of whom are teaching at major universities, who are aggressively turning believers away from their faith. Instead of embracing the Cross, he turned against it; maybe unwillingly, I'm not sure, but he admits his heart has hardened.
Now, he doubts, among other things, the validity of Sacred Scripture, whether Jesus ever claimed his divinity and whether Heaven and Hell exist; which, in effect, is doubt on the existence of God.
Doubt is good, as long as we are willing to work through it to find Truth, with the capital T, and meaning.
|Karol Wojtyla with his students...|
St. John Paul II once wrote, "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth."
The Pope knew a thing or two about hardship himself, having lost his mother, sister and brother at a young age and his father by his early 20's, then experiencing the wrath of Nazism and Communism that ravaged his native Poland. He turned to his studies and God; reason and faith.
He was a brilliant thinker and scholar, having himself been a college professor, who understood that faith without reason is left wanting at best and reason without faith is deficient.
Blind faith or cultural faith are houses of cards, which is why so many modern scholars are turning young believers into "Nones" (Not affiliated with any religion in the Pew Research Studies or Atheists).
Christians can't be afraid of delving deeper, seeking answers and challenging their doubts.
We have the example of St. Thomas the Apostle who said he wouldn't believe until he saw and touched the wounds and once he did, said, "My Lord and my God."
Bishop Robert Barron harps on this issue. He says for far too long, we've been plagued with dumbed-down Catholicism and dumbed-down Christianity because clergymen have been afraid of engaging truth and losing their faithful on intellectual discussions. Instead, young Christians are finding intellectual arguments against the faith, on social media and in stacks of books hitting book stores, compelling and leaving churches in droves.
Some of the arguments are nothing more than unsubstantiated "theories," which have been around since the Enlightenment. Others date back to early Christianity and Arianism or other heresies.
I'm not going to get into details here but, suffice to say, there are answers, in the Church's case, two thousands years of answers by some of the greatest minds in the annals of time, if we want to find them. I'm praying my old high school friend doesn't stop searching and opens his heart to the real Truth that every man and woman on the face of the earth is looking for, whether they know it or not.
As for my friend who lost his son, he is now much stronger. You never quite get over the loss of a child but he has learned to cope and his faith is what keeps him going; the hope that one day he will see and embrace his son again.
In the case of my lawyer friend, his depression was after his bout with alcoholism and before his heart attack! He now jokes that the only way that God got through to him was by putting him through the rigors of alcoholism, depression and a heart attack (the torture that brought out truth). He too restored his life, got married, had a family and is living his faith.
I love the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, "The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness."
For the once Atheist scholar CS Lewis, the Truth of Christianity was irrefutable, and despite the pain and grief he felt with the loss of his wife, when he questioned God, he also wrote in the same book on his grief, "beneath the fragile and very human veneer of the organized churches of the world, there lies a truth so real and so pristine that all of man's concocted philosophical posings tumble into ruin beside it."
The father, whose child Jesus drove the unclean spirit from, said it best, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief."...