Is God the Means or the End?

I was recently reading through C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed, and came across a concept that I find very important. Lewis recognized that he, in grieving over the passing of his wife, was in danger of wanting to use God as his means to be reunited with her more than wanting God for God. Lewis writes:

“Am I for instance sideling back to God because I know that if there is any road to H it runs through him? But then of course, I know perfectly well that he can’t be used as a road. If you’re approaching him, not as a goal, but as a road, not as the end, but as a means, you’re not really approaching him at all. That’s what was really wrong with all those popular pictures of happy reunions on the further shore: not the simple-minded and very earthly images, but the fact that they make an end of what we can get only as a byproduct of the true end.”

(Sorry I have no reference to give, as I was listening to an unabridged audio of the book. This comes quite near the end of the book.)

Lewis’ words are challenging. Do we want God as a means to get to heaven and to be reunited with our loved ones, or do we want heaven in order to be with God? God does not condemn our desire to see our loved ones who have preceded us in death; in fact, he calls us to find comfort in the fact that they will rise from the dead on the Day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:13-ff). But I do think that God demands that he be our ultimate goal and not the method we use to get something we want that is not him.

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