TO MARY MARGARET McCASLIN: On how, after weathering a bereavement, one feels abandoned by God; on how God works on our behalf even when we feel He is inactive; and on the necessity of continuing to use the ordinary means of the spiritual life during times of extraordinary need.
2 August 1954
Thank you for your letter of the July 25th. I will certainly put you in my prayers. I can well believe that you were divinely supported at the time of your terrible calamity. People often are. It is afterwards, when the new and bleaker life is beginning to be a routine, that one often feels one has been left rather unaided. I am sure one is not really so. God’s presence is not the same as the feeling of God’s presence and He may be doing most for us when we think He is doing least.
Loneliness, I am pretty sure, is one of the ways by which we can grow spiritually. Until we are lonely we may easily think we have got further than we really have in Christian love; our (natural and innocent, but merely natural, not heavenly) pleasure in being loved—in being, as you say, an object of interest to someone—can be mistaken for progress in love itself, the outgoing active love which is concerned with giving, not receiving. It is this latter which is the beginning of sanctity.
But of course you know all this: alas, so much easier to know in theory than to submit to day by day in practice! Be very regular in your prayers and communions: and don’t value special ‘guidances’ any more than what comes through ordinary Christian teaching, conscience, and prudence.
I am shocked to hear that your friends think of following me. I wanted them to follow Christ. But they’ll get over this confusion soon, I trust.
Please accept my deepest sympathy.
From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack