Lewis: Delighting in God

Lewis’s exuberance in the faith shines through in many of his writings, whether they be apologetic or fiction. One of his later books, Reflections on the Psalms, contains nuggets like these:

The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express that same delight in God which made David dance.

There . . . I find an experience fully God-centered, asking of God no gift more urgently than His presence, the gift of Himself, joyous to the highest degree, and unmistakably real.

My study of Lewis during my sabbatical helped me see his character more clearly then ever. Reading his letters to Americans provided insights into who he really was and what moved him.

What I love most about Lewis, I think, is that even though he was one of the most astute minds of the twentieth century, able to be classed with the best and the brightest, he understood that a rigorous intellect could be coupled with devotion and humility without any cognitive dissonance.

He was a man who realized that all talents and abilities, intellectual or otherwise, were gifts from God and should be treated as such. He was not embarrassed to show pure joy in contemplation of the nature of the One who gives all good things.

Pride and arrogance, be gone!

Lewis: Joy Fulfilled

C. S. Lewis wrote often of his search for Joy (which he always capitalized). As a non-Christian, it was an inconsolable longing for something always beyond reach. As a Christian, it took on an entirely new quality. In his autobiography, Surprised By Joy, he goes into some detail about what it meant to him. I’ll let him share now:

Surprised By JoyIn a sense, the central story of my life is about nothing else. . . . It is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again.

Apart from that and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.

Note the clear distinction Lewis made between Joy, on the one hand, and Happiness and Pleasure on the other. Joy is deeper, while the others can be superficial and transitory. He even says in another place that he thinks all pleasures are merely poor substitutes for real Joy. Near the end of his autobiography, he provides a summary of his thinking on the subject of Joy:

But what, in conclusion, of Joy? For that, after all, is what the story has mainly been about. To tell you the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian. I cannot, indeed, complain . . . that the visionary gleam has passed away. I believe . . . that the old stab, the old bittersweet, has come to me as often and as sharply since my conversion as at any time of my life whatever.

But I now know that the experience, considered as a state of my own mind, had never had the kind of importance I once gave it. It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer. While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts. When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, “Look!” The whole party gathers around and stares.

But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold. “We would be at Jerusalem.”

The reality is greater than that which points to the reality, and that is where our focus should be.

Lewis: Stop Making Mud Pies

Weight of Glory“The Weight of Glory,” a sermon delivered by C. S. Lewis at Oxford in 1941, has to rank in the upper echelons of all his thinking/writing. It is filled with memorable images. One of the best is this one:

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith.

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

While we wallow around in the mud, the Lord wants to show us a greater glory than we’ve ever imagined. It’s time to look up from our silly little mud pies and walk—no, run—to the glorious “holiday” He has promised. That’s where the real joy is found.

Finney: The Agony & the Ecstasy

I’ve often remarked how I wish I didn’t have to come across as someone who’s always pointing out the sins and errors in the world, especially that part of the world connected with government. It can get old, and it’s easy to tire of being the Jeremiah. Yet, as I was reading some of Charles Finney’s Revival Lectures, I came across something quite pertinent to my situation, and it gave me a measure of encouragement:

Prayer-FerventIf you have the Spirit of God, you must expect to feel great distress in view of the condition of the Church and of the world. Some spiritual epicures ask for the Spirit because they think He will make them so perfectly happy.

Some people think that spiritual Christians are always free from sorrow. There never was a greater mistake. Read your Bibles, and see how the prophets and apostles were always groaning and distressed, in view of the state of the Church and of the world.

The apostle Paul says he was “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.” . . . You will know what it is to sympathize with the Lord Jesus Christ and be baptized with the baptism that He was baptized with. . . . The more you have of His spirit, the more clearly will you see the state of sinners, and the more deeply you will be distressed about them.

The other side of the proverbial coin is the joy of the Lord, but it always coexists with a profound anguish over the devastating effects of sin all around us. We need to be familiar with both the agony and the ecstasy of seeing things through God’s eyes.