C. S. Lewis: Don’t be fooled by feelings

Should you depend on spiritual feelings or experience? Remember C.S. Lewis:

“All our prayers are being answered and I thank God for it. The only unfavorable symptom is that you are just a trifle too excited. It is quite right that you should feel that ’something terrific’ has happened to you …. Accept these sensations with thankfulness as birthday cards from God, but remember that they are only greetings, not the real gift. I mean that it is not the sensations that are the real thing.

The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be – perhaps not ever – experienced as a sensation or emotion. The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise when they go and you are once again emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be operative when you can feel it least.

Don’t imagine it is all going to be ‘an exciting adventure from now on.’ It won’t. Excitement, of whatever sort, never lasts. This is the push to start you off on your first bicycle: you’ll be left to lots of dogged pedaling later on. And no need to feel depressed about it either. It will be good for your spiritual leg muscles. So enjoy the push while it lasts, but enjoy it as a treat, not as something normal.”

Letters of C. S. Lewis, ed. W.H. Lewis (New York: Hartcourt, 1966) 241: Letter of May 15, 1952, emphasis added.