When I talk with people about heaven I use the phrase “C. S. Lewis thought…” at least once per minute, so this series is an effort to collect some of C. S. Lewis’ thoughts about heaven and expand on them a little.
Heaven can be a neglected hope in the Christian heart, but I think this is just due to a failure of imagination. If we do not long for Heaven at every moment, then it may be that we do not understand what it is. C. S. Lewis helps here. So often I have felt a longing for Heaven stirred in me when reading Lewis. He does this because he understood that the joy that is to be found on earth is not an end in itself, but draws us toward some greater consummation, so when he writes about Heaven I find myself drawn on toward the horizon by his giving vague shape to things hoped for but as yet unseen, that are too wonderful for our minds to presently understand.
On each post I will take a different quote from Lewis and try to tease out a bit what he is saying. Here is #1:
The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in. The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds, from us by the very nature of the world; but joy, pleasure, and merriment he has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and be an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with old friends, a bath or a football match have no such tendency. Our father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home
Heaven is the home of every good, true, and beautiful desire. This world, being the curious mix of broken and whole pieces that it is, has good things scattered broadcast for us to find, but never for us to keep. Lewis is saying that this is with a purpose. The posture of the believer is leaning heavily on heaven. In the meantime, every great joy is tinged with the sadness of its passing, while every great sadness is diminished by the promise of the future homecoming.
As Lewis says, we are never safe, but we have plenty of fun. This reminds us that we are nomads. This is not to say that it is not right to put down roots, but rather, that it is not right to keep the treasures this earth has to offer as the ultimate treasures, nor to mourn their passing as if it was right that we keep them forever. The time for holding treasures forever is coming, if the Bible is to be believed, but isn’t yet here. There is such a tendency for safety in the human heart. This is a world where the good things that bring such joy can be taken from us in a moment, where pain can blindside us without asking if we are ready or if now is a good time or sending a warning that we ought to cherish what we have deeply because we will not have it long. Of course in such a world we will tend to build little circles of security around ourselves as best we are able.
The gospel, however, is not about minimizing risk, and, if the life if Jesus is to be any standard, it is often the opposite. When our hearts hold on the treasures in heaven becomes more secure it frees us to live without clinging to the treasures of earth. The pain of grief still hurts, but mingled with that grief is a supernatural endurance. Christians should love the earth, but long for a home that does not wear out, for bodies that do not fail, for relationships that aren’t scarred by selfishness, for work that is joy and creates things that will always last.
This should not take us out of the world, but give us secure grounds to enter it more fully. This does not make Christians miserly, but makes Christians those who most fully experience the joy, pleasure, and merriment that God has sown into the world like seeds of a promise that will one day grow into fruition.