A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“The change will not be completed in this life, for death is an important part of the treatment. How far the change will have gone before death in any particular Christian is uncertain (p. 207).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
While teaching a seminar on grief, I was struck by the reality “we were not made for this world” but with almost everything we do assumes we were. Trying to make sense of death from the vantage point of earth is like trying to make sense of puberty from that vantage point of adolescence.
Children do not have a category for the changes of puberty because they have not experienced adulthood to know why those changes are needed. If they did know, then it would remove the innocence that makes childhood special and disrupt healthy maturation.
Similarly, we do not have a category for the changes of death because we have not experienced heaven to know why the process of living-and-dying is needed. I would assume (because a loving God has chosen not to disclose this information), such knowledge would be as harmful to us as early sexualization is for a child.
Lewis’ quote brought this reality to my mind again – death is part of what God is doing in our life. The process of losing loved ones and facing our own mortality has developmental (i.e., sanctification) benefit as we pass from a fallen world to a perfect heaven.
Not only that, the innocence of knowing what all of those benefits will be is itself beneficial for our ability to enjoy heaven.
Consider where sin began. Adam and Eve wanted to be able to know (i.e., define) good and evil for themselves (Gen. 3:5). They did not want to trust God in a perfect environment. They wanted to know if they could make it better. That form of contentment we call trust was underdeveloped in their pristine environment.
Even now that same character quality is weak in us as we wonder how we will be entertained in heaven for eternity without sin or anything “bad” (admit it, you’ve asked that question too). We need to face the consequences of this discontentment before we will be able to enjoy the blessing God has in store.
Death is the resounding revelation that our trying to “find life” always results in huge losses (Luke 9:24). Jesus said we must be willing to lose our life if we want to really find life. Any honest person will admit that is a lesson humans do not learn easily.
That is why I’m grateful for the validity of Lewis’ second statement. That lesson will not be fully learned before we die. My salvation is not dependant upon me finally “getting it” (i.e., abiding in perfect contentment). Rather this life is about me learning to trust God enough to “want it” and placing my faith in the way God has decided to provide it – through the gospel.
When that happens, death has served its purpose. It has made sure that the residents of “the New Heaven” (Rev. 21:1) do not have the same ignorance of contentment’s great value that resulted in the rebellion of the original heaven and earth.