When I turned 40, I realised I was going to die.

I became aware that there was nothing I could do stop my upcoming death. My first 40 years had passed in a heartbeat.

I became aware—in a visceral, ‘in my bones’ sort of way—that there was nothing I could do stop my upcoming death. My first 40 years had passed in a heartbeat, I realised, and the next 40 years would pass even more quickly. And after that? I would hit the impregnable wall of death that hems us in. A wall that no human being, no doctor, no medicine can break through.

Oh, I always knew that I would hit the wall (of death) one day (unless Jesus returned beforehand). But I had never really felt it. It had always been a distant reality—something way over the horizon. But upon turning the big four-zero, I felt eerily like a terminal cancer patient, being told that my death is inevitable.

Which is kind of strange, because death is inevitable. Like it or not, everyone reading this will—sooner or later—be dead. It’s not a ‘maybe’: it’s a ‘definitely’.

But perhaps I had given in to the (modern) secular western mindset of not thinking about death. Of pushing it out of my consciousness until its unwelcome intrusion during as I hit mid-life.

It was a depressing thought, let me tell you.

But it showed me why our culture is so obsessed with entertainment—with escapism—we just don’t want to think about our mortality, not even during a pandemic. Give me a Netflix binge and a packet of Doritos whenever I’m feeling down, to escape this uncomfortable truth. (In fact, a medical specialist friend of mine told me how people—even older patients—just don’t want to face their mortality).

Mortality and Hope

But what if thinking about our mortality—our inevitable death—could be a source of hope, not a source of fear or depression? What if we became convinced that what came after death was truly good, and truly certain? What would happen to our fear of death?

If we became convinced that what awaited us was a glorious city wouldn’t we look forward to our death?

Sure, we would still fear the process of death. And we’d still feel sad for family and friends left behind to mourn us. But if we became convinced that what awaited us was not an impregnable wall, but a glorious city—a new Creation—with our Heavenly Father and his Son, then wouldn’t we look forward to our death (as strange as that sounds)? Wouldn’t we become like the apostle Paul, who wrote ‘For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ (Phil 1:21).

(To our secular world, such talk of death and gain sound absurd. But if death is the impregnable end, then facing our mortality becomes unbearable.)

Glimpses of Narnia

When it comes to seeing the beauty of what comes after, the Narnia chronicles have given us a beautiful, poetic—and in a way, concrete—picture of what awaits God’s people after death.

Narnia helps us imagine a life beyond that wall. It helps us glimpse, if ever so slightly, the glorious future that awaits us. Knowing how wonderful this future is can erode our fear of dying. It allows us to cross each day off our short lives, not fearing what’s ahead, but yearning for it. It brings the hope of heaven into the now, providing peace and meaning even in a world wracked by pandemic.

As author Tim Keller points out:

[I]f you’re a Christian…but you are not experiencing peace and meaning, then it is because you are not thinking enough. There is a shallow, temporary peace that modern people can get from not thinking too much about their situation, but Christianity can give a deep peace and meaning that come from making yourself as aware and as mindful of your beliefs [especially about heaven] as possible.[1]

So what is Lewis’ picture of heaven?

While he gives it to us in a number of places, the most captivating expression of it is found at the end of ‘The Last Battle,’ when Aslan speaks to the Pevensie children about why they’ll never be leaving (the resurrected) Narnia:

‘There was a real railway accident,’ said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of your are—as you used to call it in the Shadowlands—dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.’

And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can truly say that they all lived happily ever after.

But for them, it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.[2]

Of course, Lewis is using poetic licence in describing heaven. But his imagery orients our heart and desires to the new creation: to see resurrection life as better, greater, more glorious than life now. Far from death being the end of our life, it is the gateway to an astounding new life: a life in which ‘every chapter is better than the one before.’

If ever there was a story that weakened my fear of death, and helped me yearn for my heavenly home, then Narnia is it.

Yes, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

[1] Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God – An Invitation To The Skeptical (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2016, 69.

[2] CS Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia (Great Britain: Harper Collins Publishers, 2001), 777.