I have never quite understood people
who are always happy and cheerful.
It's admirable, of course,
but seems quite beyond attainment.
Yesterday in a church meeting, I asked myself,
If I had to be cheerful all the time,
would I still be me?
I'm not sure I would.
I spend a lot of my life
thinking and writing about beauty
and what it means to be human--
two things that can only be understood
in the context of pain.
How is possible that these cheerful people,
I often quip,
don't feel the pain of the world around them?
And how do I become like them?
I beat myself down,
without an answer to these questions.
But a few minutes later,
in that same meeting,
the speaker quoted C.S. Lewis' The Problem of Pain,
which compares kindness with love.
We often think of God as Kindness,
the type of kindness whose only end
is to see others happy.
This kindness says,
"What does it matter so long as they are contented?"
There is no concern for whether people become good or bad,
"provided only that [they] escape suffering."
This kindness is like the cheerfulness I have described--
an end unto itself,
naively misapplying its own virtues.
"If God is Love, He is, by definition,
something more than mere kindness.
And it appears, from all the records,
that though He has often rebuked us
and condemned us,
He has never regarded us with contempt.
He has paid us the intolerable compliment
of loving us,
in the deepest, most tragic,
most inexorable sense."
God's love for us means that it's okay if we suffer.
He was willing to suffer for us so that we don't have to,
but He knows we will.
He has more in mind for us than just our escaping suffering.
He wants us to become like Him.
So there is a place for pain.
If cheerfulness is like the kindness Lewis describes,
then I think real happiness is like the love he describes.
Happiness is possible,
and men exist to have joy,
but it requires a price.
It is a joy because of pain,
not one in spite of it.
And I sure am glad.
I wrote down in my book,
"A world with only cheerfulness and no pain
would have no room for me in it."