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Lewis on Letting Go

The full story behind this famous C.S. Lewis quote: “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

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The full story behind this famous C.S. Lewis quote: “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

This is a variation of a very popular C.S. Lewis quote. Lewis is, of course, highly quotable, but the context of the quotes is where the real meat lies. Lewis had an enormous correspondence, and one of his pen-pals was an American woman Mary Willis Shelburne. His letters to her are collected in the slim but wonderful book Letters to an American Lady.  This is the context of the above quote, from a letter dated June 17, 1963 — just 5 months before his death.
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Pain is terrible, but surely you need not have fear as well? Can you not see death as the friend and deliverer? It means stripping off that body which is tormenting you: like taking off a hair- shirt or getting out of a dungeon. What is there to be afraid of? You have long attempted (and none of us does more) a Christian life. Your sins are confessed and absolved. Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.

Remember, though we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way round—we get afraid be- cause we struggle. Are you struggling, resisting? Don’t you think Our Lord says to you ‘Peace, child, peace. Relax. Let go. Underneath are the everlasting arms. Let go, I will catch you. Do you trust me so little?’

Of course, this may not be the end. Then make it a good rehearsal.

Yours (and like you a tired traveller near the journey’s end) Jack

Lewis famously enjoyed life’s little pleasures, his pipe, his pint, good company and good books. He loved life and the beauty and wonder of this world, and you can tell it in his writings. But you can also see how he held it lightly, particularly toward the end. I think he had very little difficulty with the letting go.

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