Wait, Act, and Always Trust: 10 Christian Life Insights from C.S. Lewis in Prince Caspian

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This is the second post in a series concerning The Chronicles of Narnia novels. Since I am reading C.S. Lewis’ major non-fiction works this year, I have also decided to read the Narnia series. As I do so, I am not only enjoying the captivating dramas, but I also know that C.S. Lewis was (and is) a brilliant mind who illustrated wonderful gospel truths within the stories. These posts then will not mainly be reviews or summaries of the novels, but rather insights about the gospel, God, us, and Jesus I gleaned while in Narnia.

This second post concerns the second novel Lewis wrote about Narnia, Prince Caspian. The post concerning The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe can be found here. In this second story, Lewis vividly illustrates realities about us as humans and especially about God—even though he (represented by Aslan) doesn’t show up for most of the novel. Below are ten insights from this second Narnia novel.

For those who are wanting to see a sort of table of contents, here are the ten insights. The first eight are smaller insights that are found on specific pages within the story, and the last two are general insights from the story of Prince Caspian at large.

1. Follow Jesus, Even If It’s Difficult
2. Jesus Sometimes Makes Himself Less Visible to Build Trust in Him
3. A Desire for Comfort and Ease Can Block Your View of God
4. God’s Majesty Makes Us Glad and Afraid
5. As You Grow Bigger, God Seems Larger (Although He Actually Doesn’t Grow)
6. God Has Plans He’s Orchestrating Even if You Don’t Know It
7. There’s Great Honor and Great Shame in Being Human
8. A Lack of Self-Sufficiency is What Makes You Sufficient
9. Wait and Trust Him, Even if You Don’t Know What He’s Doing
10. Act and Trust Him, Even if You Don’t Know What He’s Doing

1. Follow Jesus, Even If It’s Difficult

Aslan does not show up for a long, long time in Prince Caspian. This is pretty surprising, especially if you read it right after reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in which he’s a main character from earlier on. But Lewis does this on purpose. As will be discussed later on in this post, Lewis has Aslan appear on the scene only in small ways at first in order to enforce this idea of waiting, acting, and trusting.

The first person to see Aslan in the book is Lucy. But the others don’t see him, and so Lucy reluctantly follows the others instead of Aslan. Later on, when she finally sees Aslan again and is able to talk to him, this dialogue occurs:

“‘I'm sorry,’ said Lucy, who understood some of his moods. ‘I didn't mean to start slanging the others. But it wasn't my fault anyway, was it?’ The Lion looked straight into her eyes. ‘Oh, Aslan,’ said Lucy. ‘You don't mean it was? How could I—I couldn't have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don't look at me like that ... oh well, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn't have been alone, I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?’ Aslan said nothing. ‘You mean,’ said Lucy rather faintly, ‘that it would have turned out all right—somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?’ ‘To know what would have happened, child?’ said Aslan. ‘No. Nobody is ever told that.’ ‘Oh dear,’ said Lucy. ‘But anyone can find out what will happen,’ said Aslan. ‘If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me—what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.’ ‘Do you mean that is what you want me to do?’ gasped Lucy. ‘Yes, little one,’ said Aslan. ‘Will the others see you too?’ asked Lucy. ‘Certainly not at first,’ said Aslan. ‘Later on, it depends.’ ‘But they won't believe me!’ said Lucy. ‘It doesn't matter,’ said Aslan” (142-143).

The point is clear: Aslan wanted and wants her to follow him, even if it is difficult. She was to follow him 1) even if no one believed her, and 2) even if she didn’t know what was going to happen. Why? Because she was to trust him. As we’ll see, this is a theme Lewis is pushing throughout the book.

2. Jesus Sometimes Makes Himself Less Visible to Build Trust in Him

Connected with this, another insight from Lewis from Prince Caspian is how Aslan intentionally makes himself less visible in order to build the siblings’ trust in him. This can be seen throughout the book and from the quote mentioned above, and especially from a dialogue the siblings have about following Lucy:

“‘I'll go with her, if she must go,’ said Edmund. ‘She's been right before.’ ‘I know she has," said Peter. "And she may have been right this morning. We certainly had no luck going down the gorge. Still—at this hour of the night. And why should Aslan be invisible to us? He never used to be. It's not like him’” (147-148).

As the story goes on, it becomes clear that Aslan is intentionally being invisible to them. He reveals himself slowly for reasons. He could’ve just allowed them all to see him right away—like he did in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and like he did for Lucy—but he’s working on them. Peter asks, “Why should Aslan be invisible to us?” And the answer is that he is building their trust in him as they act and wait upon him.

3. A Desire for Comfort and Ease Can Block Your View of God

As the story goes on, Susan finally begins to see Aslan. But to the readers’ surprise, she then admits that she really believed deep down that he was there earlier, but that her desire to just get out of the woods held her back:

“Aslan glided on before them and they walked after him. ‘Lucy,’ said Susan in a very small voice. ‘Yes?’ said Lucy. ‘I see him now. I'm sorry.’ ‘That's all right.’ ‘But I've been far worse than you know. I really believed it was him—he, I mean—yesterday. When he warned us not to go down to the fir wood. And I really believed it was him to-night, when you woke us up. I mean, deep down inside. Or I could have, if I'd let myself. But I just wanted to get out of the woods and—and—oh, I don't know. And what ever am I to say to him?’ ‘Perhaps you won't need to say much,’ suggested Lucy” (152-153).

Susan admits that she really deep down knew it was him, but that the fact that she “just wanted to get out of the woods” really hindered her from realizing it, admitting it, and seeing him. Just as Lucy had to admit her guilt in not following Aslan when she should have earlier, so Susan here admits her guilt in suppressing him because of her desire just to get out of the woods.

Without digging too much into it, it is clear that Lewis is making the point that we can be so caught up with something we want or think we need, that it hurts us from seeing God.

4. God’s Majesty Makes Us Glad and Afraid

Right after this, they all finally see Aslan. When they first see him, Lewis narrates about how it made them feel:

“Now Aslan had stopped and turned and stood facing them, looking so majestic that they felt as glad as anyone can who feels afraid, and as afraid as anyone can who feels glad” (153).

The point is very clear and simple, and it is a point Lewis made a few times in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And it is that God’s majesty and greatness has this complementary, double effect. First, people see how lovely and wonderful he is—he makes them ‘glad.’ And at the same time, God secondly makes people feel rightly afraid. Fear and gladness are, therefore, not at odds. Because God is so majestic, he can be both infinitely lovely and infinitely awe-producing at the same time.

5. As You Grow Bigger, God Seems Larger (Although He Actually Doesn’t Grow)

Another insight Lewis makes in Prince Caspian is about the Christian life. Twice he makes the point that Aslan seemed much bigger to the children.

Once Lewis narrated thus: “Aslan, who seemed larger than before, lifted his head, shook his mane, and roared” (156).

But the main insight comes from when Lucy is talking to Aslan. It is clear that Lewis is making a point about Christian living. Here’s the dialogue:

“‘Welcome, child,’ he said. ‘Aslan,’ said Lucy, ‘you're bigger.’ ‘That is because you are older, little one,’ answered he. ‘Not because you are?’ ‘I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger’” (141).

This is clever of Lewis. Why? Because if you think about it, if a child were to grow older and get bigger, a normal animal would look smaller, not bigger, than when they were a child. But it is not so with Aslan. Instead, when you grow bigger, Aslan himself looks bigger.

But does Aslan himself grow bigger? He makes it clear that he does not. Rather, “Every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

This is a great way of describing the Christian life. We grow in Christ, and as we do so, he doesn’t appear smaller because we are growing bigger. Rather, as we grow, he appears to grow more and more in his glory, mercy, grace, love, majesty, etc. But all along, Christ never really changed—only our small perspective of him did.

(As a side note, the 2008 film adaptation of Prince Caspian unfortunately got this completely backwards. They make the exact opposite point Lewis was trying to make. In the movie, the dialogue happens this way: “Lucy: ‘I’ve missed you so much...You’ve grown!’ Aslan: ‘Every year you grow, so shall I.’” As you can see, this is not what Lewis wanted to convey. Instead, it is the opposite. Aslan appears bigger to Lucy as she grows, but he doesn’t actually grow. She alone grows, and as she does so, he appears more majestic (although he hasn’t changed). It’s unfortunate how small dialogue can change big meaning.)

6. God Has Plans He’s Orchestrating Even if You Don’t Know It

As the story continues on, it seems that Aslan once again takes more of a back seat away from the main conflict. Peter, Prince Caspian, and others are fighting the Telmarines and everything begins to look a little chaotic. The Telmarines decide to flee to the town of Beruna across the river for extra strength so they could attack and defend themselves behind their closed gates. But as they do so, they find themselves in for a little surprise: the bridge across the river was completely gone. How did this happen? Aslan.

“In a few minutes all Miraz's followers were running down to the Great River in the hope of crossing the bridge to the town of Beruna and there defending themselves behind ramparts and closed gates. They reached the river, but there was no bridge. It had disappeared since yesterday. Then utter panic and horror fell upon them and they all surrendered. But what had happened to the bridge? Early that morning, after a few hours' sleep, the girls had waked, to see Aslan standing over them...” (197). And then the story continues on about what Aslan had done earlier with the girls.

Lewis wonderfully illustrates something very encouraging about God here. When everything seemed chaotic for Peter, Caspian, and the others in battle—and even when it seemed that Aslan wasn’t helping—it was in those very moments that Aslan was behind the scenes doing something that would be what made them win the battle. If the bridge was still there, the Telmarines would’ve retreated the Beruna and probably fought strongly from there. But because the bridge wasn’t there, Peter, Caspian, and the others eaily won the battle.

This is an “Aha” moment in the book. You don’t know why Aslan is doing what he’s doing when a massive battle is going on at the same time. But then it becomes clear. Aslan was actually helping in a greater way than they knew. Even though he seemed absent, he was helping them and proved that he is trustworthy.

7. There’s Great Honor and Great Shame in Being Human

Then as the story ends and Caspian is being crowned King, we learn two things about humanity. First, Aslan makes it very clear to Caspian that there is both great honor and shame in being human:

“[Caspian said to Aslan], ‘I was wishing that I came of a more honorable lineage.’ ‘You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,’ said Aslan. ‘And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.’ Caspian bowed” (218).

This is the biblical view of man in a nutshell. We each have “honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar” because we are made nobly in the image of God. And yet, we also in our God-exchanging corruption have “shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth.” We are both beautiful and broken beings.

8. A Lack of Self-Sufficiency is What Makes You Sufficient

The second insight about us as human beings comes once again from how Aslan interacts with Caspian. When Caspian is about to take the Kingship of Narnia, Aslan asks him a question:

“‘Welcome, Prince,’ said Aslan. ‘Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?’ ‘I—I don't think I do, Sir,’ said Caspian. ‘I'm only a kid.’ ‘Good,’ said Aslan. ‘If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been a proof that you were not. Therefore, under us and under the High King, you shall be King of Narnia, Lord of Cair Paravel and Emperor of the Lone Islands’” (206).

Caspian is fit to be king because he thinks that he alone isn’t sufficient to be king. In other words, he is humble. And so, ironically, he then is fit to be king. It is his lack of self-sufficiency that makes him sufficient.

This is the biblical view of strength and sufficiency. We are to be strong, but not in ourselves. In fact, we are only strong when we are weak (2 Corinthians 12:10). We are to “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:1), not our own. And most clearly, we are not sufficient in ourselves, but our sufficiency comes from God (2 Corinthians 3:5). Lewis illustrates this well with Caspian’s humility.

9. Wait and Trust Him, Even if You Don’t Know What He’s Doing

This then brings us to the final two insights from Prince Caspian, and they are more general observations when one takes the whole story line into consideration. The first is that throughout the story the Pevensies and Caspian are waiting upon Aslan.

As discussed above, it is clear that Aslan is acting more behind the scenes in this book than in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He is waiting to reveal himself fully, and he’s doing this because he wants to teach the children (as they’re growing bigger and older) to wait upon him.

Implied in this waiting is that he wants them to trust him. That is one of the main themes of the book. They are waiting for Aslan to act, and often not knowing why he hasn’t shown up, but they are to trust him throughout it all.

10. Act and Trust Him, Even if You Don’t Know What He’s Doing

This leads to what I think is most overarching insight from Prince Caspian. Aslan wants them to wait upon him, yes, but even more so it seems that Aslan wants them to act while trusting him.

I think it is important to make a distinction between waiting and acting (and hence making it two separate insights here). Throughout, it is true that Aslan wants them to wait upon them. But it also true that their waiting does not involve them just sitting around until Aslan shows up. Instead, their waiting is an active waiting. They are waiting for Aslan to show up, but as they do, they are doing what needs to be done and living their lives as faithfully as possible.

I think this is the greatest insight from Prince Caspian as a whole. The Christian is one who is to rely upon God, depend upon God, and often wait upon God, but that does not make the Christian life passive. Rather, the Christian life is both waiting and acting, depending and doing, relying and trying.

This is illustrated well by the Pevensies and Caspian as they wait upon Aslan (albeit imperfectly at times for sure), while also living and fighting faithfully. All along, they were called wait upon him, act, and always trust him. And once again, at the end of the story, we see that Aslan truly was worthy of their waiting and worthy of their trust.

Our Jesus is the same way. May we wait and act, and always trust him. He is trustworthy beyond our imaginations.