Life, Love, Suffering and Faith

Yes, love hurts – and is costly:

Things are too busy and too hectic right now for me to pen a proper article. Funeral arrangements for my wife and related matters must take priority. But perhaps I can share just a few brief thoughts with you here. In the past, whenever I wanted to get some correct information and details about something, I would usually just defer to my wife. But she is no longer here, so I will try to do my best.

It was either last November or December that our beloved Daisy dog passed away. She was 16 ½ – a good old age for a Border Collie cross. All the joy we had with her for so long turned to sadness in her last year or two of life. In the end she could barely stand or walk – and she was almost blind and deaf.

So in the end we had to take her to the vet and have her put down. She used to like being in the back seat of our car, so we took her to the vet, and she was allowed to stay in that car while the vet came out and administered that final dose. It was sad. It always is.

But I want to make a well-known point. To love someone or something is to risk hurt, pain, disappointment and grief. They go together. You cannot have love without the possibility of real hurt. And my wife was in a similar situation. Years of joy with her turned to years of sadness. She too in the end could not stand or walk.

No, she was not “put down”. But toward the end we did pray to the Lord that her time of suffering would not go on for too long. She died when she was meant to die. “Our time on earth is brief; the number of our days is already decided by you” (Job 14:5).

And when I did get impatient with God, even angry, that her days seemed to be dragging on with all her pain, each day I would discover that there was a good reason for it. Either she and I had a short chat which was special, or a few other folks got to see her, etc. So God knew what he was doing and his timing was perfect – as always.

But I am aware that some people will never fall in love with another person – or even have a pet – because they cannot stand the thought of possibly getting hurt, or of having to endure the suffering of the beloved. But again, this is a package deal in a fallen world. They go together of necessity.

As is often heard, “Better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all.” We can try to live a life without pain by trying to live a life without love, but what sort of life will that be? Many have written about these matters. Here is one piece I did on this:

Image of The Four Loves
The Four Loves by Lewis, C. S. (Author) Amazon logo

But as is often the case, perhaps no one has captured all this better than C. S. Lewis. In his superlative 1960 book The Four Loves he said this:

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

If we want the joys of having a pet dog, we must be prepared for the sorrow that may accompany things when the animal ages and dies, or perhaps is prematurely taken from us. All the more so with human loves. In addition to maybe dying young, our beloved may turn on us or reject us or run out on us. Even before a relationship becomes established, there is the problem of unrequited love.

Love always hurts. And the one who knows about this more than anyone else is God. Because God loves, he hurts. He loves us and wanted to have relationship with us. But we all have turned our backs on him and rejected him. We read about how God was even grieved at creating us (Genesis 6:6).

But thankfully – and unlike so many of us – his hurt and grief did not cause him to write us off. He continues to woo us and to seek to win us back to himself. But many will forever refuse. Many will continue to shake their fists at God. Talk about unrequited love.

And so many people have a false understanding of what real, biblical love actually is. Once again Lewis comes to our aid. In The Problem of Pain he writes:

By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His lovingness; and in this we may be right. And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness—the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy. What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’ and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’. Not many people, I admit, would formulate a theology in precisely those terms: but a conception not very different lurks at the back of many minds. I do not claim to be an exception:  I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that, God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.


I might, indeed, have learned, even from the poets, that Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness: that even the love between the sexes is, as in Dante, ‘a lord of terrible aspect’. There is kindness in Love:  but Love and kindness are not coterminous, and when kindness (in the sense given above) is separated from the other elements of Love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object, and even something like contempt of it. Kindness consents very readily to the removal of its object – we have all met people whose kindness to animals is constantly leading them to kill animals lest they should suffer. Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering. As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled: the legitimate sons, who are to carry on the family tradition, are punished. (Hebrews 12:8) It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms:  with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes. 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.

As to love and suffering, I mentioned that God is love, and that he suffers for us and with us. He has left us a pattern – a template. The cross fully illustrates this. We are called to follow in that suffering love. Whether it is love for a spouse, or even love for the loveless, that is what we are called to do.

It will hurt. It will cost. Real love is costly love. Christ loved us to the end by suffering for us to the end. One day all the suffering will be no more.

But the love will continue. That is good news indeed.

[1448 words]

11 Replies to “Life, Love, Suffering and Faith”

  1. So true. This article brought me to tears because tomorrow is my son’s birthday. He has severed all contact precisely because of my love for him, which he deems as hatred because I cannot affirm his chosen identity and chosen name. He will ignore any calls or texts I send tomorrow and for all I know he may have moved house and may have a new phone number. He has ‘killed’ himself in a sense and has tried to recreate himself from scratch in his own image – but this image is nothing more than the reflection of a broken soul. I have lived this nightmare for 10 years now and am wondering if it will ever be over. Tomorrow is a day of mourning for the day I heard those precious words I will never forget, “You have a son’… a son who was given a carefully chosen name that he has now rejected. To have love spurned hurts – but then I think of God and the multiplication of ‘spurning’ many times over, and I am assured that if anyone knows how I feel, it is Him – praise God.
    Continuing to lift you and your boys to the Lord in your grief, Bill.

  2. Thank you Bill. All you shared in ‘Love hurts’ was so beautifully true and powerful, even though you reminded us we have to face sorrow and suffering on the flip side of love. You also shared so much of the heart of God and reminded us of how much He suffers when any one of us, turns our back on Him….yet He stays faithful and keeps loving each one and wants to forgive us. It made me think we still can never fathom the suffering in God’s own heart when He surrendered His only beloved Son to die on the cross for our sin…It must have been utter agony, as it was for Jesus also…. Both suffered as Jesus offered forgiveness and bore the all of mankind’s sin and became ‘A man of sorrows acquainted with grief, one from whom men hid their faces..’ Yet, ‘He endured the cross for the joy set before Him.’ (Hebrews 12:1-2) On the one hand was Gethsemane and the cross looming and behind that was just 3 years of main ministry. But beyond that was the victorious resurrection rising from the grave to heaven – rising up above and over death, sin, principalities, powers, Satan and death…
    Thank you for sharing such deep thoughts and all it meant to love Averil and all it means to still love her forever. ‘Many waters cannot crush love.’
    Thanking God that He has her safe in His hands of love, in eternity, until you met again.

  3. Hi Bill,
    It’s so sad to hear of the passing on of your wife. I send my deep condolences to you. May the Lord strengthen and comfort you in this difficult time of pain and grief. Shalom to you.

  4. For me, as a Catholic, thinking about the Blessed Virgin Mary and what she endured as she saw her Son unjustly tortured and then crucified on the Cross gives me some solace. It’s why she’s a figure of such importance in Catholic apologetics and ministry- she too has experienced the agony and pain of seeing that happen to someone she loved intensely and because of that, she is there as a figure of empathy and mediation for those of us in need. My rosary and prayer life is very important to me right now, every bit as much as the Bible and the comfort and consolation that it provides. Prayer is an important aspect of our faith journey as we deal with the loss of a loved one. God hears us and will always be there for us.

  5. Thanks so much Bill for sharing your love for your wife Averill through all her suffering and now promotion to glory. Great insights into how love hurts and how God suffers so much more because of His supreme love.
    You and your family have been in my prayers especially at this time and will continue.
    I can identify to some extent with you because my own dear wife passed away in May last year after years of ill health and suffering. But what a great comfort to know that she is safe in the arms of her Lord and all suffering is over. Thanks be to God.

    I hope to watch the live streaming of Averill’s funeral from my home in W.A.

  6. Hello Bill, please accept my deepest condolences for the passing of your dear wife Averil.
    As a regular listener to Vision Christian Radio, and in particular Neil’s program 20/20, I have appreciated and valued the perspectives you have shared over the course of your discussions. They are distinctive for their sincerity and candour, and shine with and in the glory of His word.
    Today (Fri. 14-7), I listened as you shared your heart about Averils death, and was deeply touched. Grace was clearly manifest in the spirit of your musings and is indicative of the depth and strength of your faith in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The love you have for our Lord and your darling Averil, is both truly inspiring and humbling.
    Christ words, as shared by Paul, in 2Corinthians 12:9, resonated strongly
    “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness”.
    My prayers are with you for His blessing and favour over you at this time.
    Stay strong and stay well my friend. ~~

  7. Sadly ‘grief is the price we pay for love’
    Thoughts are with you Bill.

  8. Dear Bill,
    I am truly sorry that you have lost your beloved wife. I too am at the stage where I am ‘waiting’ for my beloved to pass away. After 68 years of happiness he is so sick and frail now that I can’t help wondering how he can last much longer. The timing of these things are hidden from us for a reason only God knows. CS Lewis was so wise! For years now I have had a quotation of his on loving above my desk to remind me that death for one of us means pain for the other. It says ‘The pain is part of the happiness. That’s the deal! As Rhona says who knows more about the pain of grief that the Blessed Mother who saw her beloved son die a cruel death on the Cross. As Catholics my husband and I also say a prayer to St Joseph for a happy death as he is the patron of a happy death because he died with Jesus and Mary beside him. A happy death means dying in God’s friendship and I am sure your wife did that with you by her side. One of the beatitudes says ‘Happy are they that mourn for they shall be comforted’ and God always keeps His word so He will comfort you. I will offer up a rosary for you.

    PS Can I remain anonymous please?

  9. Hi Bill,
    I only found out recently about your beloved wife’s passing. I am so sorry to hear this as i know the pain that losing our loved ones and our beloved pets can bring. In 2012 we lost our 36 year old son after a 2 year battle with bowel cancer. He was a husband and a daddy to 2 boys at that time 3 and 5 years of age. In the intervening years I have lost my beloved mother, 2 brothers in law and 3 beloved pets, 2 dogs and a cat..Our most recent one, our cat Lily who was 16 and was such a comfort to me throughout our son’s cancer journey was only last Monday. Grief remains regarding our son although he was a strong Christian and stayed faithful to His Lord and Saviour to the end. I am so grateful he is in heaven. It was so difficult accepting he would die and we would not get our miracle despite many, many others praying. I had much “intense fellowship” with the Lord during this journey. 1 Cor 15:53-58 was of particular comfort to me and still is. As I am now 74 and have been unwell for the last 14 months, having to lay down so many things and watch our family deal with so many challenges. I was a hospital chaplain for 15 years, so am not unacquainted with sorrow and death, indeed our daughter became a Type 1 diabetic at the age of 8 and that has been a difficult journey also.. I love Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount regarding being blessed when we mourn, as I contemplated this paradox, so much was opened up to me regarding the blessing we can receive and understand through mourning and sorrow. Especially the cost of love and the frailties of our humanity and the shortness of our life. I have once again opened up your blogs and been enriched by them. My heartfelt prayers for the peace and comfort of our blessed Comforter and the One who is “acquainted with grief” be with you and your boys..there is much we learn through experiencing these unwanted seasons and so much of Him and His presence and yes, His seeming absence, we can hopefully use to help others. God bless you and how you will miss your Averil..even though we rejoice our loved ones are with our Lord and now whole, healed and truly understanding what true joy means. I will be praying for you . 2 Cor 1:3-5

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