The Perils of Introspection
[C.S.] Lewis’s experience in the pursuit of Joy and the mistakes he made has had a huge effect on the way I think about the assurance of salvation in relationship to introspection and self-examination. What he discovered is that the effort to know the experience of Joy by looking at Joy is self-defeating. He wrote, “I saw that all my waitings and watchings for Joy, all my vain hopes to find some mental content on which I could, so to speak, lay my finger and say, ‘This is it,’ had been a futile attempt contemplate the enjoyed.” It can’t be done, for the moment we step outside ourselves to contemplate our enjoying, we are no longer enjoying, but contemplating. The implication of this for knowing that we are believing God by trying to look at our believing is enormous.This is our dilemma . .
"as thinkers we are cut off from what we think about; as tasting, touching, willing, loving, hating, we do not clearly understand. The more lucidly we think, the more we are cut off: the more deeply we enter into reality, the less we can think. You cannot study Pleasure in the moment of the nuptial embrace, nor repentance while repenting, nor analyze the nature of humor while roaring with laughter. But when else can you really know these things? "(Lewis)
You cannot hope and also think about hoping at the same moment; for in hope we look to hope’s object and we interrupt this by (so to speak) turning around to look at the hope itself.
". . . Introspection is in one respect misleading. In introspection we try to look inside ourselves and see what is going on. But nearly everything that was going on a moment before is stopped by the very act of our turning to look at it. Unfortunately this does not mean that introspection finds nothing. On the contrary, it finds precisely what is left behind by the suspension of all our normal activities; and what is left behind is mainly mental images and physical sensations. The great error is to mistake this mere sediment or track or by product for the activities themselves." (Lewis)
What this has meant for me is, first, that I see now that the pursuit of Joy must always be indirect—focusing not on the experience but the object to be enjoyed. And, second, I see that faith in Jesus, in its most authentic experience is suspended when it is being analyzed to see if its real. Which means this analysis always ends in discouragement. When we are trusting Christ most authentically, we are not thinking about trusting, but about Christ. When we step out of the moment to examine it, we cease what we were doing, and therefore cannot see it. My counsel for strugglers therefore is relentlessly: Look to Jesus. Look to Jesus in his word. And pray for eyes to see.
HT: Kevin Williams