Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.


Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?

This book is a contemplation on Job as much as a record of a modern man mourning and while it deserves our attention it is also a cautionary tale.

Lewis is credited with being one of the great apologists of Christianity in the 20th century and I can remember being very impressed with the Screwtape Letters when I was in high school and being assaulted by all that science and the world had to offer against my immature beliefs, passed on to me and supported by the authority of a lot of old people – many of them were over 40 at the time – whose wisdom I refused to recognize.

Lewis gave me an alternative to dogma and his comforting sentimental Christianity gave me an option of remaining Christian until my mind and my faith could be formed and strengthened by the grace of God and better teachers.

Going back to Job, although we are loathe to admit it,  Satan always comes, “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it” and it takes sterner stuff than Screwtape, Narnia and even A Grief Observed to help in facing him down. I am not entirely sure that his questioning, doubting and anger towards God are not the signs of a healthy faith – as Madeline L’Engle argues – but are signs of a weakened faith and one that can only be restored by the grace of God, “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.”

 

A grief observed San Francisco : Harper & Row, [1989], c 1961      C.S. Lewis Bereavement  Religious aspects  Christianity Hardcover. Reprint. Originally published: London : Faber, 1961. 89 p. ; 20 cm.  Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in  text.  VG/VG

Written with love, humility, and faith, this brief but poignant volume was first published in 1961 and concerns the death of C. S. Lewis’s wife, the American-born poet Joy Davidman. In her introduction to this new edition, Madeleine L’Engle writes: “I am grateful to Lewis for having the courage to yell, to doubt, to kick at God in angry violence. This is a part of a healthy grief which is not often encouraged. It is helpful indeed that C. S. Lewis, who has been such a successful apologist for Christianity, should have the courage to admit doubt about what he has so superbly proclaimed. It gives us permission to admit our own doubts, our own angers and anguishes, and to know that they are part of the soul’s growth.”

Written in longhand in notebooks that Lewis found in his home, A Grief Observed probes the “mad midnight moments” of Lewis’s mourning and loss, moments in which he questioned what he had previously believed about life and death, marriage, and even God. Indecision and self-pity assailed Lewis. “We are under the harrow and can’t escape,” he writes. “I know that the thing I want is exactly the thing I can never get. The old life, the jokes, the drinks, the arguments, the lovemaking, the tiny, heartbreaking commonplace.”Writing A Grief Observed as “a defense against total collapse, a safety valve,” he came to recognize that “bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love.”

Lewis writes his statement of faith with precision, humor, and grace. Yet neither is Lewis reluctant to confess his continuing doubts and his awareness of his own human frailty. This is precisely the quality which suggests that A Grief Observed may become “among the great devotional books of our age.”

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