Clive Staples Lewis, also known as C. S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia, friend of J.R.R. Tolkien of The Lord of the Rings, and foremost Christian apologist of the twentieth century, was called on by the BBC during World War II to speak a word of comfort to his countrymen. Lewis, an Oxford professor who was known by this time for his conversion from atheism to Christianity, agreed to do a series of weekly fifteen minute radio talks on the subject of reasons for the Christian faith from a layman’s perspective. What resulted is what is known today as the Christian classic, Mere Christianity.
In these speeches, Lewis began by arguing for the existence of God from the existence of an objective realm of morality, an approach known today as The Moral Argument. Lewis argued that because there is a real right and wrong, there must also be a transcendent standard of right and wrong and that standard must be God. Next, Lewis discussed ethics — how we behave toward each other. Here Lewis emphasized the clear truth expressed in the golden rule of Christianity, in the English parlance: that we should “do as we would be done by.” Or, as we might say it, “that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us” (Matthew 7:12). Finally, Lewis moved to a discussion of the triune nature of God, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, and God’s relationship to us.
The observation I would like to make is not simply that this is a great book that you should read, though it is, but that Lewis’ approach to comfort in times of crisis is a wise one that we should follow. By doing what he could to share truth with others, Lewis was seeking to give clarity about the nature of reality, about life’s meaning and purpose, about pain and suffering, and about what real comfort is and where we can find it. Three quotes by Lewis illustrate his approach. First, Lewis understood what real comfort is and where it comes from. He said, “It is quite useless knocking at the door of heaven for earthly comfort. It’s not the sort of comfort they supply there.” Second, Lewis understood that comfort comes through knowing the truth. He wrote, “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and in the end, despair.” Third, Lewis understood that God might use the difficulties of this life to get our attention and to cause us to turn to Him for comfort. He said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
What Lewis did then is what we should do today. We should seek to reason with others about our Christian faith, about the existence of God, the truth of Christianity, and the salvation God offers through Jesus. In a time of distress, many have questions and are seeking truth. The best way to offer comfort in this case is to share truth. Interestingly, this is what Paul said in the text we considered yesterday, 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. Look again at what Paul said (2 Corinthians 1:3-4):
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
How do we as Christians offer comfort to others? Paul said, we are to comfort others who are in affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:4). As you think about how to comfort others during this time of affliction, consider the instruction of Paul and the example of C.S. Lewis that it is by sharing truth that we give comfort. You may have an opportunity to do this by saying to a friend something like, “I’m thankful right now that I have faith in Christ. It gives me so much comfort.” Or, you might want to say something like, “I’m glad to know God is listening to my prayers right now. It is so helpful in coping with anxiety.” These kinds of statements are invitational. They politely open the door for conversation about God and the Christian faith. I hope you’ll give it a try sometime. Many people cite C.S. Lewis’ work in Mere Christianity as having brought them to faith in Christ. Perhaps something you say about your faith could also help someone come to faith in Christ and to know the comfort that comes with that faith. This, after all, is the real comfort people need.