Statesboro, GA, USA
I personally could not accept the notion that a woman’s fatal illness was somehow God’s test; in fact I found it repulsive. Why any god I would care much less want to worship, (love?), would need to inflict pain to determine faith or worthiness is beyond what small goodness I have.
Conversely, a "god" who didn't have some plan or purpose even for the very darkest things in our lives (ie, Death), wouldn't be much of a god.
The alternative, is to believe that the darkest things (all things really) are of no purpose whatsoever, meted out by a blind universe. It is to believe that death (as well as life) is meaningless, in spite of our innate feelings and knowledge to the contrary. (notice that children don't hold to the philosophy of meaninglessness- The child must die 'ere the cold philosopher can live).
Why would the first view be better? Well, first of all, because it's true. (You knew I wouldn't put this only in the context of choosing what benefits us the best). But secondly, because the latter view gives us no appeal, no hope of any kind of redemption or sense. The first view, at least, could be misinterpreted by us. You paint God, with your words, as the cosmic sadist, and we as his helpless laboratory animals. But at least, while God exists, we could be mistaken. Pain and anger, are often the helpers of misinterpretation. We also have the testimony of many who have found joy and peace beyond grief, because of the very God they doubted. If death is a fact of life, which came into the world through sin, then God may also use it to his glory and our good. You can be mad at a God who allows death to be, or you can worship him who is able to bring good out of a very bad situation. And while Lewis struggled with believing that, like we all do, he did keep faith and was bettered for it now and in eternity. If we say we love God (who is bigger than all) then will we deny him in the face of pain and dying? I personally don't like the test, but I see how it may be necessary. I also like to think that the one who gives the test, is also the one who helps me to pass by teaching me.
The latter view, in pitting us against an irrational and omnipotent universe (as Bertrand Russell called it) places us in a battle with no hope of winning. But then again, maybe that's the allure. It appeals to our pride to imagine ourselves as rational rebles and martyrs, in a sea of absurdity. How brief the spark in the darkness, but how beautiful. What pathos! The only problem was, that Bertrand's latter years showed that he doubted his whole epistemology, revising it many times, before coming to the conclusion that humanity had no certain epistemology. He became a skeptic in it's fullest sense. Even the spark, he concluded, was illusory. And yet I see another motive in Russell, and others like him, besides mere truth. This motive was evident when he wrote about mankind "disdaining the coward terrors of the slave of Fate, to worship at the shrine that his own hands have built". As pitiful as we are, we get to take on the mantle of heroic deity. When there's no God, you get to be one yourself, and that somehow evokes a thrill, even if only despair is to follow.
I know this thread wasn't really intended to spark a debate amongst the pipsters. You're welcome for the book. I can't say that honestly about the hotsauce though. I grieve every time I part with one of those bottles.