Death and Life & Clive
Amidst the fear and uncertainty often surrounding thoughts of death, Christianity offers hope and even joy when it comes to such thoughts. CS Lewis has given some excellent perspective on the matter. He is very thorough and careful and explains everything from a wide point of view, and thereby avoids unnecessary confusion or offense.
One of my favorite quips of his that I have read is a statement that I have seen quoted several times, and really sums up the heart of what Lewis is saying, particularly in chapter ten. It goes as follows: “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” It is a clever, concise way to put a very significant concept.
If we make heavenly matters our main objects of aspiration or attainment, the earthly ones will fall automatically into place. Furthermore, we will more fully appreciate any earthly accomplishments and pleasures by not expecting them, or assuming we deserve them. If we go through life expecting nothing pleasant (but with our eyes set upon the hope and fulfillment of the next life) anything we do enjoy will be more significant, and our difficulties less so. Not so, on the other hand, if we go through life constantly running after all the pleasure it has to offer, setting our goals upon worldly accomplishments.
Many people have the mindset (and it is easy to accidentally fall into) that we deserve enjoyment, and that the purpose of life is to seek the next fun or gratifying thing. It is better to realize that we deserve nothing but suffering, though God allows us to enjoy the earth he created. This may sound pessimistic, but the result should be quite the contrary. It is my belief that God strongly wants for us to enjoy our time on earth, and we are probably doing or thinking something wrong if we do not find pleasure in even the little things in life. That’s just not our primary objective.
Some would disagree, as I’m sure John Piper would, but I think pleasure is a direct result of our objective rather than the main goal. There probably is nothing wrong with allowing that to be motivation, but I would state the Christian goal as the glorification of God, along with expanding the body of Christ.
On a personal level as we grow more intimate in our relationship with God we will discover His role as the ultimate source of pleasure and fulfillment. That in itself pleases and glorifies him, so we really have a self-satisfying circular chain reaction. From that perspective, it does not really matter where you start, as long as you do.