The Mismatch of Consolation & Religion

"Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly.  Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively.  But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand."  – C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, chapter II.

The willingness of C.S. Lewis to engage in pain is astounding to me.  He feared pain, yet, when he found himself in it, entered into it.  He did not ignore it or flee from it.  He wrestled with it.

Like Jacob and the angel… or like Captain Dan on top of the mast in Forrest Gump… wrestling with God in the dirt of life is essential to our relational discovery of God.  We need to come to know that God is going to be there for us even as we go through trial. 

But too often we are looking for the quick out.  When we see someone grieve, we try to make them feel better… not always because we care for them but because it would make us feel better if they would feel better… or because we don't think a Christian should struggle.  Rarely are we willing to actively wait in pain with someone who is actively in pain.  Instead we often throw pleasantries and consolations of religion as if they were placebo drugs… "God has a plan"… "everything works out for those who are called"… "it will all be okay"… "trust God"… etc.

Sometimes, one of the worst things we could do is to encourage someone to stop grieving. 

Sometimes, one of the best things we could do is to encourage someone to grieve… and to grieve along with them. 

Jesus wept.  He wept for Lazarus and his friends.  Jesus wept for Jerusalem.  He wept sweat from his pores in Gethsemane. 

Ezekiel 6:9 suggests that God hurts.  Love = the willingness to embrace pain.  Love is patient, kind, never failing, is not easily angered.  Each of those attributes requires an intentional acceptance and proactive grasp of pain.  Endurance, perseverence, forgiveness, trust… each takes a purposeful step of entering into pain.  Blessed are those who mourn.

God loves… and therefore God weeps.  It is not weakness… it is strength.

Perhaps we are too weak to accept the grief of others… who loved so dramatically that they find themselves mourning that which is lost. 

If we fail to embrace pain by placing consolation as the prime directive, our religion is dead and we have missed much of the point of Immanuel, God with us.

Ken Castor

Ken Castor is a husband, dad, pastor, writer and teacher. He serves as a professor at Crown College, Minnesota, where he equips students to pursue Jesus-Centered Faith and Next Generation Ministry. For 20+ years he's focused on equipping the next generations in places like the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. He's the author of Grow Down (Simply Youth Ministry, 2014), Make a Difference (Broadstreet, 2016), the Blue-Letters Editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible (Group, 2015) and numerous other articles and Bible Study guides. But, whenever possible, he gets down on the floor and builds Lego with his kids. Connect with him @kencastor.

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