7 Thoughts on Joy from C.S. Lewis

7 thoughts on joy from C.S. Lewis

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What was it about, joy, that compelled C.S. Lewis to convert from staunch atheism to later becoming one of the most influential Christian authors of all time? I wanted to find out, so I recently read his book about it, called Surprised By Joy.

I love the writings of C.S. Lewis.  He was not a lazy thinker and he was unflinchingly honest in the way he approached the big questions of life.  Because my word of the year for 2016 is joy, the title, Surprised by Joy, is what initially drew me to this book. I was not disappointed.  I do feel like I was able to grab hold of a deeper understanding of that word, joy. I recommend reading the book.  For the sake of brevity, I’ve pulled out seven quotes, that I believe; shine a brighter light on the concept of joy.

C.S. Lewis described joy a little differently than I had previously thought of it.

1. “Joy is distinct not only from pleasure in general but even from aesthetic pleasure.  It must have the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing.” –C.S. Lewis

Whereas I had often thought of joy as something more steadfast, Lewis described it as a pang.  Yet I knew that pang, too.  I’ve felt it.  I thought about how something can be both of those things at the same time and a picture began to emerge.

2. “All Joy reminds.  It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still “about to be.” -C.S. Lewis

It’s a reminder, something that I can’t quite grasp, or describe fully.  Yes, this was it.  This was joy.

3. “It is a by-product.  Its very existence presupposes that you desire not it but something other and outer.” -C.S. Lewis

I feel joy the most when I’m not thinking about myself, but when I’m completely in the moment.

4. “In introspection we try to look “inside ourselves” and see what is going on.  But nearly everything that was going on a moment before is stopped by the very act of our turning to look at it.” –C.S. Lewis

Lewis described in his story, his fruitless efforts to recapture these moments of joy that he’d experienced, to analyze them…. in order to bring them back. 

5. “The inherent dialectic of desire itself had in a way already shown me this; for all images and sensations, if idolatrously mistaken for Joy itself, soon honestly confessed themselves inadequate.” –C.S. Lewis

Again, Lewis makes clear, something I’m also learning to be true.  It’s what led him to God.  It’s leading me closer to God.  This truth about joy is that joy, itself, is not the ultimate desire. 

6. “Joy itself, considered simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all.  All the value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring.  And that object, quite clearly, was no state of my own mind or body at all.” –C.S. Lewis

Joy points to something more.  

7. “It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer.  While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts.  When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter.  He who first sees it cries, “Look!” The whole party gathers round and stares.  But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare.” –C.S. Lewis

I wrote earlier this year, that when I want more joy, what I’m really wanting is more Jesus.  @@Joy is simply the signpost that points us to Jesus.@@  Lewis discovered this, too. 

All joy reminds.  C.S. Lewis

We are made for something more.  And sometimes, we are given glimpses of that something more.  Sacred Stones.

That picture of joy was becoming clearer in my mind.  Where I was trying to reconcile how joy could be both a steadfast feeling and a pang, something I desired and had experienced, yet couldn’t grab hold of, I pictured the sun.  I saw a bright orb with rays shooting out.  I have a steadfast joy because I have the hope of Christ in me.  I know that desire will someday be fulfilled. I’ve experienced those pangs of joy, which are available to all, because God, in his mercy, has left signposts behind, pointing to Him.

 I pray that you, too, will experience the joy that comes from the hope that is in Christ Jesus.  

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
— Psalm 16:11 (NIV)