Following a helpful and encouraging message, I approached the speaker to express my appreciation. I thanked him for the practical application; to which he responded he sometimes finds it hard to distinguish where the Bible ends and common sense begins. I’ve often thought about that observation.
The Bible should never be thought of as a collection of clichés, positive thoughts, or old chestnuts handed down through the generations. The Bible speaks of a God who says of himself, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8).
But the Bible is full of what we collectively call “common sense.” No book in the Bible is better known for being such a collection as is Proverbs. Passages that even the most hardened atheist has to admit are wise include,
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” – 18:2.
“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” – 17:18.
We somehow know these principles are true even if we don’t know they are in the Bible.
On April 26, 1956, C. S. Lewis wrote a short note to someone who was suffering. Instead of going in the direction of theology or philosophy (and he was well-equipped to do either), he passes along this bit of advice,
“Of course we have all been taught what to do with suffering — offer it in Christ to God as our little, little share of Christ’s suffering — but it is so hard to do. I am afraid I can better imagine, than really enter into, this. I suppose if one loves a person enough one would actually wish to share every part of his life: and I suppose the great saints thus really want to share the divine sufferings and that is how they can actually desire pain. But this is far beyond me. To grin and bear it and (in some feeble, desperate way) to trust is the utmost most of us can manage. One tries to take a lesson not only from the saints but from the beasts: how well a sick dog trusts one if one has to do things that hurt it! And this, I know, in some measure you will be able to do.”1
To “grin and bear it” sounds like something I would say. To take a lesson from the beasts sounds like something Solomon would say. “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6).
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known” – Colossians 1:24–25.
- Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, Vol. III (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007), 743. Italics in original.