One of C.S. Lewis’s many goals is to prepare his readers to die with hope, courage, and honor. The theme pops up consistently in his writings. As one who fought in the trenches of World War I–until he was wounded–he faced the reality of death, even violent death, in ways that are hard for me to imagine.
The Bible teaches that humans live under a type of slavery–their fear of death. This consumes our thoughts with worry about our health and safety. It controls how we spend our money and our time. It can make us irrationally fight the inevitable pulling others into our anxiety.
Yet Christians are taught that death has been defeated in the death and resurrection of our Lord. Though we still face death, His resurrection functions as guarantee of our own. Thus, the pages of history are marked with heroic stories of Christian martyrs who met their deaths with courage. Of others who went toward plague and danger when people were fleeing for their lives. If you have such a guarantee of getting your life back, you can afford to spend it with less fear.
Even should we be blessed with long life, we need not suffer from a slavish fear of death. We may meet it with dignity, honor, and tranquility. Of course, we may fail–none should be overconfident of how they will “fight life’s final war with pain.” But His grace is sufficient. Our times are in His hands.
Here are just a few of many examples of how Lewis is preparing us–in his subtle way. I find them bracing.
[Prince Rilian] left the room and returned with a strange light in his eyes a moment later.
“Look friends,” he said, holding out the shield towards them. “An hour ago it was black and without device; and now, this.” The shield had turned bright as silver, and on it, redder than blood or cherries, was the figure of the Lion. “Doubtless,” said the Prince. “This signifies that Aslan will be our good lord, whether he means us to live or die. And all’s one, for that. Now, by my counsel, we shall all kneel and kiss his likeness, and then all shake hands one with another, as true friends that may shortly be parted. And then, let us descend into the City and take the adventure that is sent us.”C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, 168.
“Friends,” said the Prince, “when once a man is launched on such an adventure as this, he must bid farewell to hopes and fears, otherwise death or deliverance will both come too late to save his honour and his reason.”Ibid., 169.
“But won’t the others all come rushing at us…,” said Jill in a voice not so steady as she tried to make it.
“Then, Madam,” said the Prince, “you shall see us die fighting around you, and you must commend yourself to the Lion.”Ibid., 173.
One light, the next one ahead, went out altogether. Then one behind them did the same. Then they were in absolute darkness. “Courage friends,” came Prince Rilian’s voice. “Whether we live or die Aslan will be our good lord.”
“That’s right sir,” said Puddleglum’s voice. “And you must always remember there’s one good thing about being trapped down here: It’ll save funeral expenses.”Ibid., 187.