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C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters is a fabled correspondence between an elder devil, Screwtape, and his young nephew, Wormwood. The letters are Screwtape’s effort to tersely educate his young charge on how to tempt a man away from God. The letters are a chilling reminder that the Devil is not a caricature sporting horns and cloven hooves while wearing red tights. He is a crafty soother, a seductive intriguer, a master of manipulation who will pose as friend and confidante as he ushers you into perdition.
So while re-reading The Screwtape Letters in preparation for a fast-approaching book club, I came across this brilliant insight about a Christian during times of dryness, times of despair:
Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending to do [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.
As Catholics, we will know dark nights of the soul. Jesus Christ himself knew it. His disciples knew it. St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. John Paul II, St. John of the Cross and countless other believers have known this darkness, isolation and encroaching despair.
But they didn’t despair.
As a good friend once said, “Your feelings are not the facts.” God is there whether we feel it or not, whether we know it or not. He is not dependent on our apprehension of his existence or our understanding of his actions for him to exist and act.
He simply is. Eternally loving. Eternally present.
So when every trace of God seems to have vanished and when we ask why we have been forsaken, he is still there.
We are called to believe, even if it seems unbelievable.
And all shall be well.
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