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Wednesday Writings

Lessons from Narnia: A Boy, a Lion, and Chronic Illness

I’m reading through C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, and several sections of The Horse and His Boy, the second book, deeply encouraged me. I’d love to share that encouragement with you.

Note: these writings are not Scripture. Being a Christian himself, however, Lewis wove many Scriptural themes into the fiction of his books. Those of us who know what the Bible says can recognize the profound truths illustrated in these simple passages.

1. God comforts me

In chapter six, Shasta is waiting for his friend Aravis to join him in the tombs outside the desert city of Tashbaan. The sun sets and Aravis still doesn’t arrive, leaving Shasta alone in the dark.

A cat (that we later learn is Aslan) appears out of nowhere and leads Shasta to the other side of the tombs, facing the open desert.

There it sat down bolt upright with its tail curled round its feet and its face set toward the desert and toward Narnia and the North, as still as if it were watching for some enemy. Shasta lay down beside it with his back against the cat and his face toward the Tombs, because if one is nervous there’s nothing like having your face toward the danger and having something warm and solid at your back. Very soon he fell asleep . . .

I love this image of Shasta lying with his back to the cat/Aslan, feeling comforted and safe in the dark unknowns of the night. In the same way, God comforts us in our dark unknowns. The warmth of His presence gives us peace and allows us to rest, no matter where we are or what we face.

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4:8

2. God defends me

In just the next paragraph, Shasta is woken by the sounds of wild animals. He’s frightened by the approaching jackals, but he’s also afraid of the ghouls he believes to be lurking in the tombs behind him.

He was just going to run for it when suddenly, between him and the desert, a huge animal bounded into view. As the moon was behind it, it looked quite black, and Shasta did not know what it was, except that it had a very big, shaggy head and went on four legs. It did not seem to have noticed Shasta, for it suddenly stopped, turned its head toward the desert, and let out a roar which re-echoed through the Tombs and seemed to shake the sand under Shasta’s feet. The cries of the other creatures suddenly stopped and he thought he could hear feet scampering away.

I love how Aslan (because it is Aslan, this time in his full lion form) comes between Shasta and his danger. He won’t let any harm come to the boy, with an intimidating size and roar that send the jackals packing.

That’s exactly how God protects us from our fears too–both our real fears and our imagined fears. He comes between us and any harm from our Enemy to defend us and keep us safe. Nothing is too big or too strong for Him.

He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

I John 4:4

3. God is sovereign over all my life events

By chapter 11, Shasta and Aravis have safely reached friends in Archenland, neighbor to Narnia. But Shasta falls behind and gets lost on the mountain trail. Fog rolls in, night falls, and he finds himself alone and afraid–not to mention hungry and exhausted–in the dark.

He feels so sorry for himself that he starts to cry, until he hears the sound of something breathing not far away in the darkness.

Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. “There,” it said, “that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows.”

(Can we take a moment to appreciate this representation of how God often shows up in our darkest moments, lovingly reminds us of His presence, and simply encourages us to tell Him what’s going on?)

Shasta tells the Voice everything: his harsh upbringing, his escape with Aravis, the hardships of their desert journey, all the lions who appeared at all the worst moments to chase them and make things worse, his hunger and exhaustion–in short, how he must be the most unfortunate boy in the world.

The Voice replies that Shasta isn’t so unfortunate and that there was only one lion. Shasta asks, “How do you know?” The Voice answers, “I was the lion.”

And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

This section left me in tears (hardcore bawling if we’re honest). Even though Shasta’s misadventures look much different from my own, I could entirely relate to his distress, his despair, and his bewilderment at what he’s gone through.

Then Aslan tells him he was not just WITH Shasta in each misfortune but that he was the one who CAUSED each misfortune. He claims full responsibility for Shasta’s entire life so far–the bad as well as the good.

I was reminded of what Mr. Beaver tells Lucy about Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

“Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

In the same way, God is responsible–in the very best way–for everything we’ve gone through. We can’t understand all that He does, and we certainly can’t predict what He WILL do, but we can trust in His good character and His promise to work all things for our good (Ro 8:28).

The LORD is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.

Psalm 145:9

4. God works uniquely in my story

“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”
“It was I.”
“But what for?”
“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your own story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

This conversation, which also takes place in chapter 11, is an especially good reminder for those of us with chronic illness, who can so easily compare ourselves not just to other “healthy” people but also other chronically ill people.

Aslan’s gentle rebuke reaches us as well: it does us no good to be distracted by the stories of other people. God is working in and for them just as He’s working in and for us–with a work that’s different for everyone.

Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

John 21:21

5. God protects me

In chapter 13, Shasta is riding with new companions along the same path he traveled the night before in the foggy dark with Aslan.

The hillside path which they were following became narrower all the time and the drop on their right hand became steeper. At last they were going in single file along the edge of the precipice and Shasta shuddered to think that he had done the same last night without knowing it. “But of course,” he thought, “I was quite safe. That is why the Lion kept on my left. He was between me and the edge all the time.”

I think this is such an encouragement for us with chronic illness. We hate the foggy, dark, and frightening path He’s leading us down, but we forget that He’s with us and that this path, though not what we asked for, is ultimately safer than the way WE would have chosen.

We often look at our illness as a limitation, a barrier, an obstacle between us and all the things we want to do, used to do, can’t do, etc. But maybe, somehow, God is using our chronic illness–or anything else–as a guardrail, protecting us from greater dangers we can’t even see.

You have hedged me behind and before.

Psalm 139:5

Do you take comfort in God’s permanent presence (Heb 13:5)? Are you praising Him for the ways He’s working in YOUR life (Phil 1:6)? Have you thanked Him for His protection, even if you can’t see why yet?

6 replies on “Lessons from Narnia: A Boy, a Lion, and Chronic Illness”

Just what I needed tonight. Thank you for pointing me to Jesus. I think it’s time for a reread of “A Horse and his Boy” immediately. It’s been too long and Narnia is calling.♥️

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