Screwtape Letters II

Temptation by artist Sabzi

In C. S. Lewis’ book Screwtape Letter, Senior demon, Screwtape, instructs junior tempter, Wormwood, to take full advantage of the trough or dry periods in his patient’s spiritual life:

In the first place, I have always found that the Trough periods of the human undulation provide excellent opportunity for all sensual temptations, particularly of sex. . . . The attack has a much better chance of success when the man’s whole inner world is drab and cold and empty. . . It is often true with other desires of the flesh. You are more likely to make your man a sound drunkard by pressing drink on him as an anodyne (pain reliever) when he is dull and weary. . .

Never forget that when we are dealing with pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. (Letter IX)

Lewis was a strong advocate of God as the real source of pleasure, joy and happiness; someone who is a party-giver, not a party kill-joy. Remember the Father in the prodigal son story in Luke 15, who starts a celebration when his wayward son returns home. Our Father in heaven enjoys a good party, where all his children are welcomed and loved.

Satan is the one who perverts pleasure into unhealthy or destructive habits and sins. When we turn a pleasure like sex, which is made for a committed married relationship, into lust and perversion, the pleasure itself dissipates and dries up. It is like the alcoholic who needs more and more alcohol to derive whatever pain-relief he seeks. Seeking pleasure away from its true source leads into spiritual bondage. Satan delights in such bondage. God, however, calls us back to his ways through forgiveness and healing.

My own temptation is to compare myself with others, especially other pastors. There is pleasure in doing a job well; in heaven God will greet his faithful servants with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21). But to waste time comparing myself to other preachers or leaders is to neglect the gifts and strengths God has given to me. My focus needs to be on God’s call, not other pastors’ accomplishments.

What are your temptations? How do you find strength from God for deliverance?

Lord Jesus, save us from the time of trial.

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