“It must be a dream, it must, it must,” said Jill to herself. “I’ll wake up in a moment.” But it wasn’t, and she didn’t.The Silver Chair
Few fears are ever confined only to our dreams. We’d like for them to be, wouldn’t we? To be able to open our eyes and realize that where we are, this wonderful world, was safe and filled with delightful calm and security. But more often than not, our worst fears are very true. More true than Louis Armstrong’s beautiful ballad, unfortunately. Our world is writhing in pain and fear, and it is in this broken world that we wake up.
I’ve been you before, Jill. I wake up, terrified, and chant to myself, “It must be a dream, it must be a dream” to will away the darkness. But it wasn’t a dream and rather than awaking from the terror gripping my mind and body, I find I am already awake. Then I do the same as you or any other fearful and lonely child would do, I cry.
Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do. When Jill stopped, she found she was dreadfully thirsty.The Silver Chair
Sometimes the tears last longer than others. Sometimes they go on throughout the day and fall into the dishes I am washing, the car I am driving, the phone on which I am talking to a friend. I’ll say that I can’t stop crying, but sometimes the truth is that I don’t want to stop. Crying is nice because it delays the decision about what one must do next. But it is true, sooner or later, we must stop. We must decide what we are going to do about the fears. When I do stop, I find, like you, that I am dreadfully thirsty.
The dilemma arises however, when I recall that the only stream from which I can drink such a water and quench my thirst, has a great Lion beside it. Lions are something, aren’t they, Jill? Wild, majestic, beautiful, strong, and terrifyingly wonderful. When I’m not required to go near a lion, I rather enjoy reading of them. But there comes a time for each of us when the Lion in front of us must be faced. It would be a lie to say it isn’t a frightening experience. After all, lions are not safe.
For all she knew, there might be several lions. But her thirst was very bad now, and she plucked up her courage to go and look for that running water.The Silver Chair
There comes a point though, dear Jill, when our thirst becomes as strong as our trembling, and something rises in us that enables us to walk towards the water. The foolish call it mere bravery, the wise know it to only be grace. But even as we draw near to the water’s edge, that quiver in our steps remains. The trembling of our hands continues. For the Lion still stands there, looking at us. We want words of comfort and assurance to come from him before we drink of the water beside him, but rather than these, he commands:
“If you’re thirsty, you may drink.”
They were the first words she had heard since Scrubb had spoken to her on the edge of the cliff. For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, “If you are thirsty, come and drink,” and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the lion speaking. Anyway, she had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man’s. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in a rather different way.
“Are you not thirsty?” said the lion.
“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the lion.The Silver Chair
Oh, dearest Jill, all you must do is drink. He does not give you a complicated task, it is not a great burden, it is easy and light. All you must do is drink and for a desperately thirsty girl such as yourself, this should not be hard.
But it is, isn’t it? Why, Jill? Why do you find it so hard to satisfy your thirst?
“May I – could I – would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to – to do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
“Do you eat girls? she said.
“I have swallowed girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.The Silver Chair
Ah, dear Jill. I see why you refrain from drawing near to the water. In order to drink and live, you must trust the great Lion before you. This Lion who himself claims to have swallowed up men and women, boys and girls. This Lion who speaks not like anyone you’ve ever heard before. This Lion who you do not understand.
Might I suggest, that just because you cannot understand him, it doesn’t mean he isn’t worthy of your trust? If you do not trust the Lion and drink the water, what are you going to do?
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.The Silver Chair
Drink, Jill. Go to the water’s edge. Trust the great Lion. Bow your head to the rippling waves and drink the water. Quench your thirst. If you do not, you will perish, dear girl. You must abandon your own understanding, you must step into the unknown, you must – despite your fear – obey the Lion and simply drink the water.
It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up the water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted.The Silver Chair
You drank the water, dear Jill. You quenched your thirst, and above that, you found yourself afterward belonging to the Lion who terrified you with his greatness. You took the assignment he gave you, you followed him to the end. Then, the Lion you thought would eat you, brought you home. Not the small home you’d hoped would be less frightening than your dreams, but your real home, where the dream was at last ended. The morning had dawned, and there, in that perfect home, no good thing will ever be destroyed.
There have been many times where I too find myself hesitant to drink from the living water bound in leather sitting here on my desk, for beside it, inside it, all around it, is One so terrifyingly majestic that I tremble. He beckons me with that voice so unlike a man’s, so deep, wild, strong, and heavy – yet golden – to simply come and drink. But I’m frightened by Him. His greatness is unlike anything I’ve ever known before.
I’ve read of His power, I’ve seen His strength. Both are perfectly good reasons to tremble in His presence. But He is also good, though so full of might. He is merciful, though flawlessly just. I’ve found, dear Jill, that I needn’t hesitate to come to Him, even though I do not understand Him, for the ones who drink what He offers, find life. Like you, Jill, they find themselves ever struck with wonder at His greatness and goodness, and they gladly take on the assignments He gives them. It’s a different sort of frightened that they feel in His presence. Not one of terror anymore, but of awe.
It is not the ones who trust Him that He swallows. It is those who trust Him that He saves. He carries them through the danger, the loss, the heartache, and the fears, to that perfect country He has prepared for those who love Him. He’s not safe, it’s true. But He is good.
Oh, how I needed to remember that today.
He may not be safe, but it is in Him we are saved. Thank you, dear Jill, for the reminder.
*This post is not meant to expound on the Scriptures, but to encourage individuals to read it themselves and find peace for their fearful hearts. However, it was in reading the book of Job, John 6, and Psalm 131, that I found much of the motivation and conviction to write about trusting God even when His greatness terrifies us (in a good way) and our inability to understand how He works tempts us to lean upon our own understanding.
**All quotations from The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis