DayBreaks for 9/22/16 – Only If We Despair
From the DayBreaks archive, 9/19/2006:
Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. September 2006, Vol. 50, No. 9, Page 118
“But it is important for Christians not to confuse the existence of bad news with our reaction to the bad news—and here it is useful to look at The Screwtape Letters.
“C. S. Lewis’s famous novel was conceived and written during World War II, when so much looked bad. One of the most striking moments in the story arrives when the inexperienced junior devil, Wormwood, chortles over the horrors of war. Screwtape sternly admonishes his nephew not “to forget the main point in your immediate enjoyment of human suffering.” In war, says the senior devil, people die. But hell gains nothing from mere human misery and death, he warns. It is the state in which people die that matters.
“Lewis is not suggesting that we celebrate our suffering or that we stand blind to the suffering of others. His point, rather, is that Christians should not mistakenly think that bad news here on earth means Satan is winning. Men have done terrible things to each other ever since Eden. The horrors of war—like the other pains and scars of life—pose a challenge to faith. Lewis suggests that what truly matters is how we meet that challenge: the battle, that is, in the spiritual realm.
“As the writer of Hebrews said to discouraged believers, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the Cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:1-3).
“Lewis’s vision of Satan is far more useful and scary than Hollywood’s. The film industry loves making movies about hell. In these high-budget visions of the underworld, demons usually emerge to do bad things to people, causing death and destruction here on earth. The hero either slays them or works some mystic incantation that sends them back, after which life on earth returns to what it was before. The demons are just like other Hollywood bad guys: terrorists, serial killers, the ruthless rich out to rule the world. In these visions, the bad thing about Satan is that he wants to do bad things to us here and now.
“C. S. Lewis’s marvelous imagination, by contrast, should remind us that this vision is dangerously wrong. The terrible tragedies that befall the world work to Satan’s benefit only if we despair. Suffering, as Screwtape reminds his nephew, often strengthens faith. Better to keep people alive, he says, long enough for faith to be worn away. The death of a believer is the last thing the Devil wants.”
Galen’s Thoughts: Sometimes I’m tempted to think that Satan loves misery and death. I’m not sure that’s right. After all, I rather doubt that Satan licks his chops when he contemplates his own fate in eternal hell. So Lewis’ point is a good one: he only relishes death of humans when they die without Christ. He’d much rather that we as believers stay alive long enough to give him more time to beat us up, to wear down our resolve and surrender to the suffering of this world, blaming it on God with the result being that we reject Him. I don’t know about you, but I, for one, don’t want to give Satan that satisfaction. How much better that we spend our time, not in thinking that the suffering is what matters, but that the souls of men and women are what truly is important.
PRAYER: We are a depressed and discouraged society. The enemy even attacks us from within the sheepfold, Lord! But help us stay focused on the ultimate realities with which we are faced. Help us to realize that our despair plays into Satan’s hands. May we find comfort and assurance and sustenance beside You in green pastures beside the still waters. In Jesus’ name, Amen.