A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire. If you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if he chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you; if you are not, you will remain dry (p. 176).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Let that sentence sink in, “They [joy, power, peace, eternal life, etc…] are not a sort of prize which God could, if he chose, just hand out to anyone.” That is a paradigm shattering statement.

Consider it this way. I cannot give my “likeness” to any child who makes me smile. I could give them money, candy, or make them laugh. But I cannot give them my eyes, my nose, or my sense of humor. My commodities or blessings are of a completely different nature than my attributes.

I can only pass my attributes on to my children who are “infected” with my DNA. There is no way for them to acquire those traits without sharing in me. As my children love me more, those attributes become more and more pronounced in them (even as they mature in to the young men God designed them to be).

Similarly, we cannot have those qualities which are attributes God’s (i.e., joy, power, peace, life, hope, etc…) without being “infected” with God. These qualities are not “his” as in property, but “Him.” We are asking for Him when we ask for these things. As we love Him more, these attributes become increasingly ours even as we grow into the people God created us to be.

So we come to the often asked question, “Why doesn’t God make everyone happy? Why doesn’t God give every one joy?” But this is now a much different question. We realize we are not talking about a mere commodity for an attribute of God’s character.

God does offer everyone joy when He offers them Himself. It is merely that God cannot give joy if they reject Him. To ask for joy apart from surrendering to “God’s infection of your soul” would be like the child who wanted to play in snow that wasn’t cold.

We accept the cold is an attribute of snow and that snow does not exist apart from cold. Yet in our rebellion against God we have come to believe we can define desirable things apart from God (Gen 3:5). So we are slow to accept that joy is an attribute of God and that joy does not exist apart from God.

For this reason, we ask for joy apart from God and feel offended when we are told our request is unreasonable. Yet our upset is as illogical as the child who wants to make a snowman but refuses to put on boots or mittens.

Simply put, we must realize that when we ask God for any good things we are asking for more of Him. We are not asking for a commodity to hold, but His presence to abide. Until we realize this we are likely to overlook God’s answer to many of our prayers and feel neglected when we are being offered the highest honor to any person – “Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27).”