Monday, July 18, 2016

No One Is Told Any Story But Their Own

A world cursed with sin produces people caught in pain.

In my experience, my emotions are most traumatized by pain in others. I often handle better my own trauma than I do seeing others in pain, particularly those close to me. Maybe you feel the same.

"What was God thinking when those thugs raped my daughter?"  "Where was God during my husband's horrible accident that left him paralyzed?" "Why didn't God prevent the car wreck that killed my sister and her husband and left their three kids orphans?" "How can God allow my grandson to suffer through life with his physical deformities?" "How will God provide for my son and his family after he lost his job?"

The frustration and pain we feel for others is often more intense than the pain we feel for ourselves. Adding to our stress in empathy is the despair we feel over events like what happened in Nice, France last week, or Dallas, Texas, the week before, or Baton Rouge, Louisiana yesterday. The deeper our creation descends into darkness the more it seems we have questions for the Creator of light.

Why, God?

I love C.S. Lewis. His writing causes me to think. In his little known book  The Horse and His Boy, there is comfort for we who feel for the pain in others. A friend suggested I read The Horse and His Boy to help families who watch someone they love suffer through a terminal illness. Those standing around the bed of a loved one who is dying are asking the question, "Why?"

C.S. Lewis, in my opinion, has given the definitive answer in The Horse and His Boy.

Lewis tells the story of two young slaves, Shasta and Avaris, who are riding their talking horses to the Land of Narnia. The attempted escape to Narnia began for Avaris when she poisoned her stepmother's servant, the one responsible for keeping Avaris in captivity. Avarice fled and then met Shasta on the road north, joining him in the escape to Narnia.

Several times disaster almost befell the two escapees. Each time a Lion intervened to rescue them. On one occasion, enemy forces came close to capturing Shasta and Avaris, but the Lion spooked the talking horses, causing them to run faster to escape the trouble. However, in spooking the horses, the Lion's paw injured Avaris. Her wound, though not fatal, scarred her.

After safely arriving in Narnia, Avaris and Shasta discover that the Lion's name is Aslan, and He has been their Protector. After they discuss events during their journey where Aslan protected them from doom, Averis asks a probing question about her injury.

The Lion, whom Lewis intended to represent Jesus Christ, answers Avaris:
"The scratches on your back, tear for tear, throb for throb, blood for blood, were equal to the stripes laid on the back of your stepmother's slave because of the drugged sleep you cast upon her. You needed to know what it felt like."
The Lion revealed to Avaris that her physical suffering was intended to shape her inner character (see Romans 5:3-5). But, like we all have a tendency to do, Avaris turned her mind toward the injury and physical pain of another. She asks a question about the slave girl she drugged to begin her escape.
"Will any more harm come to her by what I did?"
The answer that Aslan the Lion gives to Avaris should be written on the templates of our minds and sealed in our hearts until we see Christ personally at the resurrection. He said:

"Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own."
It seems to me much of my maladjustment in a sin-cursed world comes from wanting to understand the reason for other peoples' pain. God is not in the business of cluing me in on any story but my own.

In Hebrews 11, some of God's people conquered kingdoms, victoriously defeated the enemy, and prospered in this life; but others were imprisoned, beheaded, and suffered mightily, not receiving the blessings others of God's people received because "God had planned something better..." (Hebrews 11:40).

God has the answers for the reasons for trauma and pain in all our lives. But no one is told any story but their own. It goes without saying then, that if He's uninterested in telling me any story but my own, then I should be intentional in not attempting to give answers to "Why" to those I love.

I don't know; only they do - or will - and they will only know when Aslan tells them, not me.

Jesus has the answers for the reasons trauma and pain are present in this   cursed world. He alone can tell me my story from the position of Protector. He will not tell me any story but my own.

I'm learning to listen to Him when it comes to my story and to trust Him when it comes to somebody else.


Glenn Plum said...

This may the best and most helpful word you have least for me. Some of your posts stretch me. Some fristrate and anger me. All of them make me think. This one reminds me of God's trustworthiness. He knows what He is doing in my life AND in the lives of all others. Thamks

Wade Burleson said...

Thank you, Glenn. I respect you and your ministry to the Kingdom.

Bob Cleveland said...

Some time back, Wade, you referred to Romans 8:28. I can think of no better time or circumstances, right now, than the present to day to believe that.

I don't meant to acknowledge it .. I mean to believe it in the same sense we believe in Jesus. The pisteuo sense that is convicted of, and entrusts to.

And let's act like it, as well.

Pege' said...

Wade..."The scratches on your back, tear for tear, throb for throb, blood for blood, were equal to the stripes laid on the back of your stepmother's slave because of the drugged sleep you cast upon her. You needed to know what it felt like."

I am confused. Are you saying the Lion gave her the wound to punish her for her actions?

Christiane said...

I think Aslan was trying to teach empathy . . . that in trying to escape, Avaris set the slave up for a very severe punishment . . .

empathy is the ability to perceive the pain of others, and it seems that Aslan wanted Avaris to know the pain she caused another, so that she could grow in compassion

Punishment? No. More like deepening and widening the well in us where the Holy Spirit may dwell and bring us the peace of Christ. And we can draw from that well to help bear one another's burdens, because we too have suffered.

It's like that part of Scripture that calls us to show mercy to immigrants and strangers: "You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

perhaps Aslan showed how the justice and the mercy of God are bound together as Our Lord works out 'making all things new' and inviting us to become a part of it.

Wade Burleson said...


Excellent response to Pege's question. I agree.

Pege, not punishment at all - character development, empathy development.

Ramesh said...

A little off topic comment. Nowadays my reading Wade's blog is via mobile devices on small screens. I was surprised to see on Kindle store Wade has three+ books. I read the happiness book 6 or 7 years ago but was looking for the Kindle copy. I promptly got his 3 books. Now I will slowly go through them.

I later checked on the desktop browser that Wade did indeed place his new books on the left hand side of the browser. All this time i had not known.

Thank you Wade for putting your books via Kindle. Much appreciated.

Ramesh said...

It seems to me much of my maladjustment in a sin-cursed world comes from wanting to understand the reason for other peoples' pain. God is not in the business of cluing me in on any story but my own.

I understand this in the context of this post but this one has problems in the fields of psychology and study of human nature.

Loddie R said...

Wade, this is one of your best posts. It certainly speaks to my heart. The temptation is always to ask God for an explanation when encountering the difficulties, trials or failures that may happen to family, friends or acquaintances. I think your point parallels the point Jesus made in Luke 13. The tendency is to want the reason why tragedy strikes maliciously or suddenly. But the response of Jesus to those who inquired was to turn their attention away from the happening of others to the necessity of dealing with their own life before God. And the parable he tells after giving the charge demonstrated that truth. No other fig tree or fruit producing plant in the vineyard would have any bearing on that particular fig tree whose future was being considered. Its fate would be determined alone by the production or non-production of figs from its branches. Let each of us be locked in to the Spirit of Christ and focused on producing fruit to the glory of our Heavenly Father. The abundance of fruit or lack thereof by others will have no consequences in regard to our life before God. The conclusion and point Jesus was making is that each of us is like that fig tree, that is “No one is told any story but their own.”

Bob Cleveland said...

If Jesus hadn't suffered the stripes of the cross, He would not be King of Kings and Lord of Lords today. And why do you suppose God ordained Him to be tempted in every way as we are?

And as Jesus was slain before the foundation of the world, I have to think it was all in accordance with the plan set out by God, before the foundation of the world.

Unless He was capricious in His dealings with the world, there's just as much good reason behind what He allows in our life, as what He allowed in Jesus' life.

God isn't nicey nice, but He is always wonderful-wonderful.

Ramesh said...

Thank you for this post. This one raises lot of questions about ones relationship to another in pain and suffering.

A different take by Schopenhauer, in his essay “The Foundation of Morality", asks "How is it that a human being can so participate in the peril or pain of another, that without thought, spontaneously, he sacrifices his own life to the other? How can this happen?".

Most Christians may not agree with Schop

JOSEPH CAMPBELL AND THE POWER OF MYTH | Ep. 4: Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth — ‘Sacrifice and Bliss’

Ramesh said...

The comment got published accidentally before it was completed.

Most Christians may not agree with Schopenhauer but experience bears this out.

It is hard to compose and type thoughts from tiny devices. This post is very interesting philosophically. I will add more comments later.

Thank you. Very thought provoking.

Christiane said...

you wrote: "I understand this in the context of this post but this one has problems in the fields of psychology and study of human nature."

not everything that happens to us is God's will, but when something difficult IS God's will, then part of His mercy is that we cannot see that far ahead down the road

I find that, over many years, I am beginning to see the blessing in what I thought was completely tragic in my life. Not everything that has sent me reeling has been His will, no. He is not the author of evil.

Pege' said...

Christine, I understand what you are trying to communicate and in the eyes of Grace I would like to think I agree with what you said. After much reading. C.S. Lewis meant it to be interpreted as a punishment in his story.

Pege' said...

I think if we were to reference any thing for comfort and query of God in suffering it would be JOB and chapter 38 and beyond.
It is an interesting fictional story but I do not see what you are wanting to get me to see.
I just can't go there. Sorry.
Not a C.S. Lewis fan.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite Lewis books--Aravis learns empathy through her experience.

Wade Burleson said...


Communication goes two ways - what the writer intends and what the reader perceives. I completely get your perceive Lewis is writing about "punishment" from God for Avaris' sin. But I don't believe Lewis intended this meaning. Like anonymous above, I believe Lewis intended to convey that our wounds teach us empathy and build our character.

Ramesh said...

From the above linked:

BILL MOYERS: Isn’t there some relationship between what you’re saying and this fact, that a father will give his life for his son, a mother will give her life for her child?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: There’s a wonderful paper. I don’t whether you knew it that I would love to talk to this point there’s a wonderful paper by Schopenhauer, who’s one of my three favorite philosophers, called “The Foundation of Morality.” There he asks exactly the question that you’ve asked. How is it that a human being can so participate in the peril or pain of another, that without thought, spontaneously, he sacrifices his own life to the other? How can this happen? That what we normally think of as the first law of nature, namely self-preservation, is suddenly dissolved, there’s a breakthrough.

In Hawaii, some four or five years ago, there was an extraordinary adventure that represents this problem. There’s a place there called the Pali, where the winds from the north, the trade winds from the north, come breaking through a great ridge of rocks and of mountain, and they come through with a great blast of wind. The people like to go up there to get their hair blown around and so forth, or to commit suicide, you know, like jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Well, a police car was on its way up early, a little road that used to go up there, and they saw just beyond the railing that keeps cars from rolling over, a young man actually clearly about to jump and prepare himself to jump. The police car stopped. The policeman on the right jumps out to grab the boy, and grabs him just as he jumped and was himself being pulled over, and would have gone over if the second cop hadn’t gotten around, grabbed him and pull the two of them back. There was a long description of this, it was a marvelous thing, in the newspapers at that time.

And the policeman was asked, “Why didn’t you let go? I mean, you would have lost your life?” And you see what had happened to that man, this is what’s known as one pointed meditation everything else in his life dropped off. His duty to his family, his duty to his job, his duty to his own career, all of his wishes and hopes for life, just disappeared and he was about to go. And his answer was, “I couldn’t let go. If I had,” and I’m quoting almost word for word, “if I’d let that young man go, I could not have lived another day of my life.”

How come? Schopenhauer’s answer is, this is the breakthrough of a metaphysical realization that you and the other are one. And that the separateness is only an effect of the temporal forms of sensibility of time and space. And a true reality is in that unity with all life. It is a metaphysical truth that becomes spontaneously realized, because it’s the real truth of your life. Now, you might say the hero is the one who has given his physical life, you might say, to some order of realization of that truth. It may appear that I’m one with my tribe, or I’m one with people of a certain kind, or I’m one with life. This is not a concept; this is a realization, do you see what I mean?

BILL MOYERS: No, explain it.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: And the concepts of love your neighbor and all are to put you in tune with that fact, but whether you love your neighbor or not, bing, the thing grabs you and you do this thing. You don’t even know who it is. That policeman didn’t know who that young man was. And Schopenhauer says in small ways you can see this happening every day all the time. This is a theme that can be seen moving life in the world, people doing nice things for each other.

Gordon said...

So, according to Schopenhauer, could it not be said the perilous act of the policeman in saving the life of the headstrong boy, and the acts of the thugs who shot dead the policemen in Dallas and in Baton Rouge are all concepts of pride and self-righteousness ?

Pege' said...

Wade, Yes communication does go 2 ways. My perception of what I read may not be the truth of what the writer intended. I know this is a book written by a man. If I take this principle to what ever I read with out checking the intent of the writer than I am putting my perception before the truth. I can do this to anything such as scripture , the constitution...we must search out the true meaning. I read many articles and thoughts concerning this story and through the eyes of Grace I concede your point, however the true meaning behind C.S. Lewis writing was punishment. I understand HOW and perhaps WHY you are using this, but think you have taken it out of context as to the real meaning of the author.

Ramesh said...

Schopenhauer's realization comes from his exposure to Upanishads of Hindus in a first translation of Sanskrit to German. This action of oneness comes from the subconscious bypassing consciousness and is without thinking. I am reminded of Chomsky's comments of the emergence of thought in broken fragments of words, phrases, images and feelings from the subconscious to conscious. Christians will have difficulty with this because of theological implications. But it does not have to be.

Ramesh said...

Whenever I come across different ideas I am reminded of this from Chomsky:

Noam Chomsky The More You Learn | YouTube

Ramesh said...

In my own mind, I am convinced that both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche were exposed to bad Christian theology and practices that drove them elsewhere.

Ramesh said...

Some more background to thoughts emerging ...

Noam Chomsky Thought Without Language | YouTube

Anonymous said...

I can completely understand your obvious passion for philosophy. What concerns me, as I read many of your posts, is that you almost hold them in such high regard, that these great "thinkers" now rival Christ.
As a believer, I may spend hours contemplating "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously..." But when push comes to shove, if there are divergent opinions, The Word of the Lord always prevails. There is simply no equal.

al bantani said...

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Rex Ray said...


We just got back from a ‘Vacation Bible School’ in Mexico.

I had to read this post several times before I could get the facts straight because the boy’s name (Shasta) was written twice instead of the girl’s name (Avaris).

The location is:

1. “…Asian protected them from doom. Shasta [should be Avaris] ask a probing question about her injury.”

2. “But like we all have a tendency to do, Shasta [should be Avaris] turned her mind toward the injury and physical pain of another.”

This post reminds me of taking an ‘idea’ so far out on a limb it breaks off.


Huh? What about “Tell me the story of Jesus; write on my heart every word…”

Maybe I’m just too simple minded.

Unknown said...

I'm thankful to have stumbled upon your blog Wade! I have, for the past day or so, been 'binge blogging' and reading many of your previous posts. Extremely timely and very insightful! On a separate note...I would like to send you an email with regards to a mutual friend of ours with the hopes that you might be able to relay my regards to him. Can I email here or is there another address I might use? Thanks, John

Rex Ray said...

Today I will visit my brother-in-law whose wife may have died during the night under Hospice care.

Today a doctor will tell me if my artery operation has done any good for a wound that has not healed in three years partly due from a ‘quack’ vein operation.

I will not give this post for comfort, but will mention a man’s words who was about to hang for being a Christian: “This is the happiest day of my life!”

Yes, if my sister-in-law has met Jesus we should not mourn the happiest day of her life.

Anonymous said...


Please know prayers are with you and your family as you walk through this difficult time.

Your comment about "the happiest day of my life.." struck a chord with me. Would you mind sharing the martyr who said this? I'd be very interested to learn more about that person.

Thank you.

Christiane said...


sorry to hear of your family's troubles and your health difficulties .... take care of yourself . . . . you are in my prayers

Rex Ray said...

Anonymous and Christiane,

Thank you.

Internet showed a man tied with his hands behind his back on a hanging platform. Two ISIS men with their faces hidden with black mask were behind him. The man looked happy saying, “This is the happiest day of my life.”

I tried to find it on the internet again but could not.

My sister-in-law is in the last stage of dementia. His young sister (my wife of 55 years) met Jesus four years ago with the same disease. He is almost blind and four people are with him including his two daughters. We talked of the ‘old days’ that were fun times.

Seeing the doctor was short and incomplete. Just as the check up got started the electricity went off in that part of Dallas. Flashlights from cell phones were all that was available. My cane got a good workout from stairs as we were on the sixth floor. City traffic without red-lights is a mess.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Burleson
when I saw the title of your post I just KNEW that it was from the Lewis "The Chronicles of Narnia." I just finished "A Horse and His Boy" yesterday. I did get the sense that sometimes things happen that I can't understand because the event is part of someone else's story.
I follow your Blog fairly often, Keep up the work! As Mack might say,"God is especially fond of you!"