The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis– letter 8

Sometimes God seems to us far removed, or even absent. Perhaps you have endured periods of dryness or spiritual numbness and wondered why God allows the darkness to persist. In chapter 8, Screwtape advises Wormwood that these times might very well result in a person ending up much closer to God than if they had never experienced the challenge at all. They represent both a threat and an opportunity.

If you’ve not yet purchased your own copy of the book, you can download Chapter 8 here.

Screwtape argues that humans (by nature) will have ‘ups and downs’ of all sorts. Feelings of Spiritual ‘up and down’ therefore have little lasting weight, unless pressed to some (nefarious!) advantage. Indeed, Screwtape knows that the ‘downs’ are very often used by God to form godly character and obedience– and so it is during those ‘downs’ when Wormwood must most actively tempt his patient.

Psalm 42 seems to have been written in the depths of a spiritual ‘trough’, and yet it concludes on a note of faithful dependence.

1    As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long,

“Where is your God?”

4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

6 My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. 8 By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. 9 I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” 10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long

“Where is your God?”

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Psalm 42:1-11

For your consideration:

  • Why does God’s presence in our lives often seem so faint? If God could make himself powerfully and sensibly present– unmistakably– to every Christian, why does he choose not to?
  • When have you experienced seasons of Spiritual dryness or feelings that God is far away? Looking back, what was helpful? What would you do differently next time?