Screwtape Letters I

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters is my current read (more accurately, my commuting audio-book). This book launched Lewis as a popular Christian author in 1942 and is a series of letters written by a senior devil, named Screwtape, to his nephew and junior tempter, Wormwood, instructing him on how to lead a young British man (call the patient) towards damnation and hell. These clever letters give the reader a humorous, yet wise perspective on the temptations to pride, lust, greed, gluttony, and self-righteousness.

Lewis’ insights still speak truth today. For example in letter eight, Screwtape writes regarding the natural ebbs and flows, (the undulation) of human emotions, even for Christians.

Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. . . As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirits can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation—the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks.

If you had watched your patient carefully you would have noticed this undulation in every department of his life—his interest in work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth, periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship.

Lewis goes on to write that the trough of spiritual dryness and dull heart can be the true place of spiritual growth, because in these valleys we learn to walk with God out of obedience and trust, and not simply because we feel some good pleasure in it. As a moody Scandinavian I often wrestle with my darker emotions. The tempter wants me to see the dark valley as God’s abandonment; God wants me to see the valley as a training ground for deeper faith and commitment.   As Lewis writes,

Hence prayers offered in the state of dryness are those that please Him (God) best.

How do you understand your emotional, spiritual, and physical ebb and flow?

Lord Jesus, teach me to be faithful, especially at my low points.

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