As I go through life and face different challenges to my faith, I often find myself faced with confusion and doubt. “Was that me or God? Was that the enemy or the chili from lunch?” I would say every Christian who has ever lived asks these questions at some point. In fact, I believe this was part of what Paul meant when he told the Philippians to “work out” their salvation (Phil. 2:12). Christians should figure out what God is doing in their lives. He means us to engage our minds. Sadly, our minds still suffer from the effects of sin. In the present, we can only hope to see reality as a reflection in a mirror (1 Cor. 13:12). In this tension between knowing and not being able to know, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to get a glimpse of the enemy’s processes.
C. S. Lewis wondered this same thing. In The Screwtape Letters, he creates a hypothetical collection of letters between a senior demon, Screwtape, and his nephew, Wormwood, a junior tempter. In this new series, we want to take a closer look at these letters to glean from Lewis’ thinking and experience. It would be beneficial for you as a reader to find a copy of this book and read along with us as we go. Some things make more sense in the context of the entire letter. As will become evident, these letters allow us as a community of believers to engage more evidence in our quest for truth.
In the preface, Lewis does issue a few words of warning to those who wonder what the enemy may be thinking.
1. When thinking about devils, “there are two equal and opposite errors. … One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them” (Lewis, 15). If you’re reading this, I will assume you at least believe in their existence at some level. If this is true, only the second word of caution applies to you. Do not focus so much on demons that Christ falls out of the picture. If you don’t, I would encourage you to study Scripture and at least try to find a solid foundation for your disbelief, if any can be found.
2. “Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar” (Lewis, 15). When trying to figure out the enemy’s thoughts, we must keep in mind his desire to deceive. Confusion, doubt, fear, and anxiety do not benefit the Christian (Gal. 1:7; Matt. 14:31; 1 John 4:18; Prov. 12:25). Our enemy will use these feelings against us to deceive us and take our focus off of Jesus. Do not put any trust in these feelings.
As we begin this journey through this classic work from C. S. Lewis, keep these two warnings in mind. If you find yourself beginning to obsess over Screwtape and his cohorts a bit too much, give it a rest. Focus on Jesus and what he did. He’s the most basic truth in existence and the most unshakable foundation in times of challenge and spiritual struggle.
Lewis, C. S. The Screwtape Letters. New York, NY: Touchstone, 1996.
Read the next post in this series here.