Note: This article originally appeared at The Gospel Coalition in February 2021.
When the cures ran out during my worst days of doctoring, I would pace a patient’s room, loathe the insufficiency of my own hands, and yearn for Lucy Pevensie’s cordial. A heart tracing on a monitor would fatally spasm, my own heart would lurch, and then my team and I would pitch into compressions and shocks, medications and needles. When these measures proved futile and the room fell eerily silent, I would stand with quavering hands, grieve, and the part of myself that dwells in stories would long to take up the cause of the young queen of Narnia, flitting between centaur and beaver with her crystal vial in hand. Perhaps her elusive tincture could mend the ruptured cells and ravel the enzymes back into place when medicine failed. Perhaps I, too, could rush from husband to grandmother, from father to daughter, and with a drop of elixir restore color to their cheeks and shine to their eyes.
We all know this ache to heal what sin has decimated. Any parent who’s watched a child cry knows the desperation to repair a broken heart, to blot out the stinging words and to wipe away the tears. We watch the headlines scroll past on our screens, every word an outrage, and wonder how we can reassemble the pieces of a world so warped with corruption. With a pang in our chest, we yearn for that healing tonic, that tincture that promises to weld sundered hearts and knit the ragged wounds edges back together.
C.S. Lewis taps into this longing. When he writes of Lucy’s “precious cordial” in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he tantalizes us with the cure for a hurt that afflicts us all, the disease that has pulsed through our veins and seeped into our bones since the Fall. He depicts Lucy as tiny apostle, one who doesn’t fully understand her role in the great, cataclysmic battle that has seized the land, but who trusts that the droplets she doles out offer some trace of Aslan’s power. As we see her dash across the battlefield, her hair flying wildly behind her as she rushes to anoint parched lips with the sweetness of renewal, we remember that by Christ’s wounds, we, too, are healed (Isa. 53:5).
As if this imagery didn’t offer enough encouragement, Lewis’ choice of words provides us with more. Despite its evocative power, Lewis’ use of the word “cordial” is anachronistic. The medicinal connotation of “cordial,” first popularized in apothecaries during the Italian Renaissance, had faded long before the 1900s. By Lewis’ day “cordial” simply meant “liqueur.” Yet in Narnia, Lucy’s “precious cordial” stirs up thoughts of healing, akin to the original meaning of the word, and points us to the gospel, to the One who heals us all. Furthermore, the healing power of Lucy’s elixir reminds us of another cordial, one upon which Thomas Watson meditated in England three centuries prior.
In 1663, the puritan Watson dubbed Romans 8:28 the “divine cordial,” a draught to warm the weary Christian when sin blasts the world: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). On this verse, Watson writes the following, to buoy despondent disciples:
“I would prescribe them to take, now and then, a little of this Cordial: all things work together for good to them that love God. To know that nothing hurts the godly, is a matter of comfort; but to be assured that all things which fall out shall cooperate for their good, that their crosses shall be turned into blessings, that showers of affliction water the withering root of their grace and make it flourish more; this may fill their hearts with joy till they run over.”
The “divine cordial,” which Paul outlines, Watson exposits, and Lewis invokes, assures us that God remains at work for our good even when things fall apart. His steadfast love and faithfulness persist even when we can’t discern his hand, and even when his will seems elusive and his favor remote.
In Narnia, Aslan warned Lucy to conserve her cordial, lest the vial drain dry. Our divine cordial, however, will never dwindle. Even when the cures of our hands falter, Christ heals us. Even when darkness clouds our vision, he gives us hope. The truth that God works through all things, and in all things is good, steels us when the wages of sin gather like a storm. What refreshment, to know that God works for good even through crushing loss (Ps. 34:18, Gen. 50:20)! What relief, to know that no pandemic or stilled heartbeat can wrench us from his love for us in Christ (Rom. 8:38-39). Just as Lucy spread the sweetness of Aslan’s mercy to those stricken on the battlefield, so also Romans 8:28, when it lingers upon the lips and warms the veins, chases away the despair infecting our hearts.
Even when cures mixed in laboratories fail, Christ’s cordial ushers us to everlasting life. Cling to the vial. Cherish each drop. And to God be all the glory.
 Watson, Thomas. All Things for Good. Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 2017: 11.