Tag Archives: Screwtape Letters

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.

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.