1194) Insights from C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), September 8, 1947 Time magazine cover


On the present moment:

     Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future.  Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.”  It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for.  The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.  The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, 1949.

James 4:13-15  —  Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”


On faith and feelings:

     It is a great joy to be able to ‘feel’ God’s love as a reality, and one must give thanks for it and use it.  But you must be prepared for the feeling dying away again, for feelings are by nature impermanent.  The great thing is to continue to believe when the feeling is absent:  and these periods do quite as much for one as those when the feeling is present.  –From a July 23, 1953 letter to Mary Van Deusen

It is quite right that you should feel that “something terrific” has happened to you…  (But) it is not the sensations that are the real thing.  The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be— perhaps not ever— experienced as a sensation or emotion.  The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system.  Don’t depend on them.  Otherwise when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too.  But it won’t.  It will be there when you can’t feel it.  It may even be most operative when you can feel it least.  –From Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 3


On what it is to depend on God alone:

     It is a dreadful truth that the state of ‘having to depend solely on God’ is what we all dread most.  And of course that just shows how very much, how almost exclusively, we have been depending on ‘things.’  That trouble goes so far back in our lives and is now so deeply ingrained, we will not turn to Him as long as He leaves us anything else to turn to… (Such times are) bound to come.  In the hour of death and the day of judgement, what else shall we have?  Perhaps when those moments come, they will feel happiest who have been forced (however unwillingly) to begin practicing it here on earth.  It is good of Him to force us: but dear me, how hard to feel that it is good at the time…  –From a December 6, 1955  letter to Mary Willis Shelburne

Isaiah 26:3  —  You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.


On anticipating death:

What a state we have got into when we can’t say ‘I’ll be happy when God calls me’ without being afraid one will be thought ‘morbid’.  After all, St. Paul said just the same (Philippians 1:21).  If we really believe what we say we believe— if we really think that home is elsewhere and that this life is a ‘wandering to find home’, why should we not look forward to the arrival?  There are, aren’t there, only three things we can do about death: to desire it, to fear it, or to ignore it.  The third alternative, which is the one the modern world calls ‘healthy’ is surely the most uneasy and precarious of all.  –From a June 7, 1959 letter to Mary Willis Shelburne

Philippians 1:21  —  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.


On wanting something too much:

You can’t, in most things, get what you want if you want it too desperately: anyway, you can’t get the best out of it.  ‘Now! Let’s have a real good talk’ reduces everyone to silence.  ‘I must get a good sleep tonight’ ushers in hours of wakefulness.  Delicious drinks are wasted on a really ravenous thirst.  –From A Grief Observed.


On Christian love:

Even while we kill and punish we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves— to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good.  That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not.  –From Mere Christianity


On recognizing and knowing each other in heaven:

The symbols under which Heaven is presented to us are (a) a dinner party, (b) a wedding, (c) a city, and (d) a concert.  It would be grotesque to suppose that the guests or citizens or members of the choir didn’t know one another.  And how can love of one another be commanded in this life if it is to be cut short at death?

From The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 3


Gracious Father, be pleased to touch our hearts in time with trouble, with sorrow, with sickness, with disappointment, with anything that will keep them from being hard to the end, and leading us to eternal ruin.  Amen.

–Thomas Arnold (1795-1842)