I feel convinced that we are entering a period of danger more acute and more laden with ugly facts than any which we have ever known in the hard and disturbed period through which we have lived.
–Winston Churchill, June 28, 1939
In 1939, Europe braced for the war that still captures our imaginations as the last clear battle of good versus evil. Just a few months later C. S. Lewis had occasion to speak to a university congregation in Oxford, England. He chose as his topic, “Learning in Wartime,” as his listeners (mainly university students) struggled with the apparent triviality of their studies when “the lives of … friends and the liberties of Europe are in the balance.” He reminded them that it is important “to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective. The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice…. We are mistaken when we compare war with ‘normal life.’ Life has never been normal.”
We have seen on television the first salvos in what may be another long and ugly war. As we try to go about our lives, we are tempted to believe that we live in unusual times that disrupt our “normal” lives and excuse our fear. Do not give in.
Jesus told us, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more” (Luke 12:4). Even on behalf of our friends and children, we must not fear death when matters of incomparably greater significance loom over us. War doesn’t change any of the realities of life, but it does change our perspective. Lewis told the students, “War does do something to death. It forces us to remember it…. War makes death real to us: and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past. They thought it good for us to be always aware of our mortality. I am inclined to think they were right.”
As we face uncertain times, as in all times, let us face them in faith, not fear.
“Death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart” (Eccles. 7:2).