Words of Wisdom - No 5
In CS Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, we read the correspondence between the senior devil, Screwtape and his young nephew, Wormwood a junior apprentice devil. In these letters Screwtape refers to the human target for devilish temptation as the ‘patient,’ and to God as ‘the Enemy’ and ‘He.’ Here he is making observations about the dry periods, or ‘troughs’ a believer undergoes:
‘The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.FROM: CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (Fount Paperbacks, London, Great Britain, illustrated edition 1979, 6th impression 1990), pp 39-41.
To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.
… It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that [the patient] is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot ‘tempt’ to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’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.’