C.S. Lewis and the Ability to Finish Well

Harry Lee Poe’s three-part biography about the life of C.S. Lewis is a masterpiece. Poe writes with clarity and wit, and with an understated prose that seems to bring Clive Staples Lewis to life. In the third volume of his set, The Completion of C.S. Lewis: From War to Joy (1945-1963), Poe covers the life of Lewis in his later years. World War II is over, and these are the years of rationing and austerity. They are also the years in which Lewis marries Joy Davidman Gresham and in which he battles his own mortality. 

One of the aspects of Lewis’ life that Poe’s exhaustive research brings out is the challenges that Lewis faced as a result of his faith. He became something of a divisive figure, even being turned down for a professorship because his faith views were considered a hinderance. But in this, Poe traces the arc of a maturing believer. As a young man, Lewis did not possess the depth of conviction that he would eventually develop, and the faith that he professed had not yet made a great change in his demeanor and personality. That would come through the refiner’s fire of age. 

There is too much to bring out from this excellent book in a short review. You need to read it. It is that good. Poe is an excellent craftsman who has been given an incredible subject of study. Really, I want to focus on just one aspect of the life of C.S. Lewis. There are too many Christians who do not finish well. They run the race only to falter as they near the finish line. It might be a steady drip of trials and pains that add up to disaster in the home stretch, or it might be a catastrophic loss or hurt that derails a faith once firm and solid. One of the great aspects of the grace of God in the life of C.S. Lewis was how he finished. In the waning years of his life, Lewis found love in the form of Joy Davidman. It was unconventional, and at first nothing more than a political move. But as time passed, a deeply rooted passion developed between the two, only to be ripped apart by Joy’s death from cancer. This launched Lewis into a battle for his faith that he laid out in part in A Grief Observed. He wrestled with the very foundation of what he believed to be true. And he came out the other end better equipped to deal with what was in his own pathway. The last years of Lewis’ life were not easy. He struggled with an alcoholic brother, a lost spouse, and finally the breakdown of his own health. Yet he finished well. He was prepared to meet his God. And that is one of the greatest legacies a person can ever leave behind. 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.