Outside of the Bible, I don’t think another book or series has helped me love Jesus more or stirred up a wider range of emotions than The Chronicles of Narnia. These books spur my heart to courage, kindness, humility, resilience, and faith.
And the more I appreciate Lewis’s great story, the more I recognize its echoes of the greatest story in the gospel. Here are seven lessons I’ve carried from each of the seven books in the series.
1. Grief Is Great
In The Magician’s Nephew, Digory, in deep despair over his mother’s illness, is shocked when the great Lion bends down with such great shining tears that Digory felt the Lion may have been even more sorrowful.
Jesus is not distant from our sorrows. He wept with his friends (John 11:35), carried our sorrows (Isa. 53:4), was acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3), and draws near to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18). He likewise calls us to put on compassionate hearts (Col. 3:12), weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15), and bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). As the Lion tells Digory, “Grief is great . . . let us be good to one another.”
2. Beware the Enemy’s Bait
In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, we see that while some sins lead to immediate consequences, others produce delayed devastation—perhaps even more to be feared.
The White Witch baited Edmund’s physical appetite with Turkish delight while baiting his heart’s appetite for power, recognition, and revenge. The first tasting did not seem to produce any consequences, but that enemy-laced bait was hardening his heart, bending his allegiance, and nourishing his skepticism of the Lion’s trustworthiness and goodness.
So too, when we do not perceive tangible consequences of our sin, we may become increasingly comfortable in it, oblivious to its war on our soul and its ramifications for others. When Edmund’s heightened cravings and lowered guard led him back to the witch’s snare, he discovered the true cost of all enemy bait—a cost so high, the Lion himself would have to pay it.
3. What’s Not for You to Know
In The Horse and His Boy, the Lion repeatedly reminds the children that his work, purposes, and plans for others’ lives are not for them to know, for “no one is told any story but their own.” Similarly, when Peter asked Jesus about his purposes for John’s life, Jesus replied, “What is that to you? You follow me” (John 21:22).
I am often tempted to compare my story to the one God is writing in others’ lives. Like Shasta and Aravis, I need to be reminded to focus more on what God is trying to teach, direct, and work in me than on what he is doing in others. What is that to me? I follow him.
4. The Stories Are True
In Prince Caspian, it seems all have lost faith in the Lion’s power, promises, and even existence. Belief in such ideas is ridiculed as babyish and ignorant. But confirming the assurances of his humble nurse and earnest tutor, Caspian discovers these stories that so gripped his heart and arrested his hopes are, in fact, true.
It sometimes seems like all those around us have abandoned faith in the old gospel story, too. But God may be gracious enough to give us a nurse and a tutor—or a grandparent, coworker, classmate, or neighbor—who still believes and inspires us to seek him with all our heart, confident we too will find Scripture’s story true.
5. We Have Been Un-dragoned
In The Dawn Treader, Eustace’s pride and greed lead him astray into a dragon’s lair. There, despite his repulsion of dragons, Eustace becomes one himself. We too can recognize (and loathe) “dragons” in the world—perhaps those puffed up on pride, enslaved to greed, and isolated from self-sacrificial love—without realizing the same snares have corrupted us too.
As this brings us to miserable depths of loneliness and pain, by God’s kindness, we may long for repentance (Rom. 2:4) but discover we cannot transform ourselves. Only God can sanctify and conform us to his likeness, stripping away sinful scales and washing us new. It will be painful, but that pain will not compare with the glory revealed to us in the end (Rom. 8:18).
6. Remember the Signs
In The Silver Chair, the Lion instructs Jill to believe and remember the signs—instructions meant to guide her adventure. He also warns they will not come as she expects, which is why “it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances.”
So too, God has laid out commands for us like signs—guideposts meant to save us from a host of heartaches and snares. He works with us as we aim to get them right. He gives us each other to help us remember them. And he tells us to repeat them (Deut. 6:7), training our mind and heart to recognize his calls, even if they do not come as we imagined.
And even when we “muff the signs,” our errors bringing consequences and delays, God can still work them for good as we confess, repent, and do the next right thing.
7. Don’t Be Deceived
In The Last Battle, we see how strikingly cunning the enemy can be, often using the people and philosophies of this world to deceive us.
We must not be deceived, like Shift’s subjects, by lies about God’s character or work that contradict all we know to be true from his Word. We must not be deceived, like the dwarfs, into assuming that if we have been spiritually fooled before, all other invitations to faith must be hoaxes also. And we must not be deceived, like the animals, into the universalism of blending all gods into one.
I am deeply grateful for how Narnia has convicted, encouraged, and spurred me on to Jesus. After all, as Lewis assured the mother of his young reader Laurence, who feared he might love Aslan more than Jesus:
Laurence can’t really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that’s what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving him more than he ever did before.
And just as the world of Narnia may serve as a shadow of the eternal home for which we were made—the land we’ve been looking for all our lives—so our world can too. And the real Lion of Judah we truly love will receive all the praise as his one eternal story goes on, forever to the end.