Plunging into this new school year, there is much uncertainty of what the next few months hold. Amidst busy to-do lists, it is easy to get tangled in the madness and to fret over the unknown. In C.S. Lewis’ incredible novel, The Screwtape Letters, Lewis offers an insightful perspective on worry, which is beneficial as we dive into this year.
The Screwtape Letters is an epistolary novel telling the tale of two demons who seek the demise of a human soul. Screwtape, the senior demon, advises his nephew, Wormwood on how to hinder the “patient” (the man) from “the Enemy” (God). Screwtape searches the man’s heart and selects the weaknesses lying therein. After pinpointing the patient’s shortcomings, Screwtape then recommends tactics to Wormwood on how to attack them. Each blow is manufactured to draw the patient one step closer to the “Father below” (Satan).
Wormwood’s patient struggles with many temptations, such as harboring annoyance toward his mother and becoming distracted during prayer. However, one specific shortcoming caught my attention: the time spent dwelling on times. In other words, time spent dreaming about or dreading the future. Screwtape explains to Wormwood:
“Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the present. It is far better to make them live in the Future. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time–for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.”
Screwtape’s goal is to set the patient’s perspective as far from eternity as can be. Because the past is frozen and known, he concludes that the future is farthest from eternity. God reigns in eternity and in our present. Where eternity and the present collide, in the here and now, is where God is, and that is where Satan hates for us to be. The future is a midst of unknown toils and joys. Setting the mind on an unknown conglomeration of possibilities is futile, but exactly what the devil desires.
However, not all consideration of the future is deemed sinful. Screwtape further explains:
“To be sure, the Enemy wants men to think of the Future too—just so much as is necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity which will probably be their duty tomorrow.”
Here we see Screwtape adding the disclaimer that it is not always wrong to consider the future. In fact, God wants us to be mindful of what is to come so we can adequately prepare for what must be done. It is not a sin to make plans or to consider the realistic possibilities tomorrow may offer. Proverbs 16:9 states, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
God will guide us in every step of our lives. Even if we make arrangements, he will bring them into fruition in His glorious way. We must be good stewards and plan accordingly, but ultimately, we must place our faith in Him and His sovereignty in carrying out our lives.
Lastly, Screwtape finally reveals what the demons truly want, saying:
“He [God] does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it. We do.”
Satan wants us to place our faith in the future; God wants us to put our faith in Him. Tomorrow teems with endless possibilities, but supposing what they may be will not make them known nor benefit us. Focusing on today and the Giver of it will bring joy and peace.
In worrying about the future, we neglect the blessings and responsibilities that come with today. Jesus says in Matthew 6:34:
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Today already has enough to handle, but today also has an ever-present, omnipotent God who holds it all. So the next time Satan offers you a ticket to tomorrow-land, close your eyes, say a prayer and thank God for where you’re at—because where you are, He is.
Works Cited: Lewis, C.S. The Screwtape Letters. NY: Harper Collins Publishers., 2001.
Photo Credit: Alessandra Gugliotti