C.S. Lewis on Joy

One of the things that drew me most to C.S. Lewis when I was an early Christian was Lewis’ writing on and amplification of “joy.”

Joy, for Lewis, was a particularly theological word.

It spoke to the German concept of Sehnsucht – or deep longing – and Lewis built whole arguments around joy as the pointer to heaven.  “If we find in ourselves a longing which nothing in this world can fill, then we can make the assumption we were created for another world.”

In Letters to Malcom: Chiefly on Prayer, Lewis writes, “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.”  Our deepest longings awaken us to joy and ultimately point us to heaven.

Lewis titled his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, and ends with this slightly overstated, but poignant analysis of the role joy plays in our pilgrimage home:

“But what, in conclusion, of Joy? for that, after all, is what the story has mainly been about.  To tell you the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian.  I cannot, indeed, complain, like Wordsworth, that the visionary gleam has passed away.  I believe (if the thing were at all worth recording) that the old stab, the old bittersweet, has come to me as often and as sharply since my conversion as at any time of my life whatever.  But I now know that the experience, considered as a state of my own mind, had never had the kind of importance I once gave it.  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.  They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up.  But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; non on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold “We would be at Jerusalem.” C.S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy: The Shape of My Early Life 

Below is a brief overview Jerry Root gave at Redux on C.S. Lewis’s conception of joy that is well worth the watch.



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