How C.S. Lewis Felt About Everything


A rare picture of C.S. Lewis.



Today marks fifty years since the passing of C.S. Lewis, as well as JFK and Aldous Huxley.

C.S. Lewis has been the most influential Christian writer in my spiritual journey. He has shaped my spirituality more than any other writer I know. I do not agree with all he says (when do we ever find such a person anyway?) — but he is absolutely a kindred soul. I also love his tales of pulling pranks on his dear hapless friends.

Except for Jesus, he will be the first one I speak with at length in Heaven.

To commemorate, some of my favorite Lewis quotes.


On our spiritual walk —
“You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again.”


On God’s Will —
“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”


On God’s Will again —
“It is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.”


On our secret desires of something more —
“I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter.

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”


On empathy —
“When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.”


On following God —
““[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing those things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”


On love —
“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained”


On loving your neighbor —
“Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”


On loving your neighbor again —
“The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he ‘likes’ them: the Christian, trying to treat every one kindly, finds him liking more and more people as he goes on — including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning.”


On God’s love —
“The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”


On God’s rules —
“We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules; whereas He really wants people of a particular sort.”


On friendship —
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'”


On goals —
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”


On God shaping us —
“We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the ‘intolerable compliment.’ Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life — the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child — he will take endless trouble — and would doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.”


On God shaping us again —
“This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there’s a rumor going around that some of us are someday going to come to life.”


On God shaping us once more —
“The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”


On obedience, one of Lewis’ most hardcore quotes —

“We may be content to remain what we call ‘ordinary people’: but He is determined to carry out a quite different plan.

To shrink back from that plan is not humility: it is laziness and cowardice. To submit is not conceit or megalomania; it is obedience.”


On hell —
“The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”


On pride —
“In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that – and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison -you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”


On our view of God —
“God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion.”


On Jesus —
“You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”


On Jesus dying —
“God did not die for man because of some value He perceived in him. The value of each human soul considered simply in itself, out of relation to God, is zero. As St. Paul writes, to have died for valuable men would have been not divine but merely heroic; but God died for sinners. He loved us not because we were lovable, but because He is love.”


On God working in you —
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”


On the first thing in the morning —
“The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes of the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job of each morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.”


On life on earth —
“If you live for the next world, you get this one in the deal; but if you live only for this world, you lose them both.”


On impressing people —
“You will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it… Give up yourself, and you will find your real self.”


On his greatest fear, insects —
“My bad dreams were of two kinds, those about specters and those about insects. The second were, beyond comparison, the worse; to this day I would rather meet a ghost than a tarantula. … The works — that is the trouble. Their angular limbs, their jerky movements, their dry, metallic noises, all suggest either machines that have come to life or life degenerating into mechanism.”


On his first spiritual experience as a young child —
“Before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased. It had taken only a moment of time; and in a certain sense everything else that had ever happened to me was insignificant in comparison.”


On the loss of childhood —
“With my mother’s death all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable, disappeared from my life. There was to be much fun, many pleasures, many stabs of Joy; but no more of the old security. It was sea and islands now; the great continent had sunk like Atlantis.”


On the risk of love —
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”


On emotions —
“Don’t bother too much about your feelings. When they are humble, loving, brave, give thanks for them; when they are conceited, selfish, cowardly, ask to have them altered. In neither case are they you, but only a thing that happens to you. What matters is your intentions and your behavior.”


On radical faith —
“The Christian way is different: harder and easier. Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked — the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’”


On everyday faith —
“Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.”


On our attempts to diminish divinity —
“I want God, not my idea of God.”


On religion —
“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”


On God’s sovereignty —
“Whatever you do, He will make good of it. But not the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed him.”


And finally, his most famous quote —
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”



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12 thoughts on “How C.S. Lewis Felt About Everything

  1. I just had to reblog this J.S. Here was one of my favorites today.
    On God’s Will —
    “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”
    It made me sit up and say “WOWCH!!”

    Like

  2. Here are some of my favorite quotes that weren’t listed:

    “Mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people to a degree we cannot yet imagine.”
    “Where, except in the present, can the eternal be met?”
    “Christianity seems to be at first all about morality, duties and rules, guilt and virtue. Yet it leads you on out of all of that into something beyond.”

    I’d be interested to learn more about his transition to Christianity from being an atheist, though I don’t often find any quotes from that part of his life.

    Like

    1. Thanks!
      Definitely read “Surprised by Joy,” his autobiographical account about his transitions from atheism to deism. It’s sort of the foundational testimony of his faith. He also has an amazing childhood that feels like Hogwarts.

      Like

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