The Screwtape Letters is a typical C. S. Lewis work. It is full of poignant insight, faith-promoting lessons, and beautiful style. This work tackles some of the less agreeable aspects of the struggle to live a virtuous, Christian life, but it does so in a way that inspires me to honestly assess myself and strive to be a better disciple of Christ.
In the preface, Lewis explains:
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.
Lewis tells this story through letters sent from Screwtape, a senior level demon, to his nephew and mentee, a junior tempter, Wormwood. Screwtape repeatedly instructs Wormwood that indifference, laziness, and other such “lesser evils” are just as damning as iniquity. Wormwood attempts to apply his uncle’s teachings to influence a young man to distance himself from God.
Lewis expertly shows us the process of conversion to the gospel, including the unrealistic highs and the frequent, yet avoidable lows.
Nearly every page is a treasure chest of insight and inspiration, and I highly recommend that you read and reread this book.
I’ll share a couple of the topics that I enjoyed.
Several of the letters discuss love. Lewis points out that the world usually considers love as a phenomenon that happens to individuals. We fall in love and we fall out of love. The truth is that love is made. Dedication to another person, putting that person’s happiness before our own, and working together toward mutual goals are acts that cultivate love between individuals. How many failed marriages would have survived and thrived if the world understood Lewis’s definition of love?
Death is not necessarily a tragedy. Screwtape reprimands Wormwood for delighting too much in death. He reminds his nephew that the death of a righteous man destroys all chances of hell dragging him into its depths. The anguish felt by mortal men when they lose a loved one is a brief and insignificant tragedy compared to the salvation or damnation of the soul.
Lewis teaches that despair is a greater sin than those that produced it. In contrast, “courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point…” What a beautiful concept! This, like so many of Lewis’s other teachings, inspires me to live a more courageous life-to dedicate myself more fully to my Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
I love reading C. S. Lewis. His writing connects with my soul and urges me to be greater than I now am. There are so many more valuable lessons in this book than I can cover at this time, and I consider it a grand blessing to have been able to read The Screwtape Letters.