Archives: Lewis on Trials

(I wrote this entry on August 30, 2011, in a prior blog, but as is the case with EVERYTHING God teaches me, it seems every bit as relevant today as it was four years ago.)


If you were at Sonrise Church this past weekend, you heard a great sermon from Pastor Eric on why we go through trials. After failing to make a smooth connection between the Star Wars clip featuring the exploding Death Star and what we would be singing about in the worship set to follow, I did share about something I had read just a couple of days prior.

I was reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, which is written as a series of fictional (obviously) letters from a demon named Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, advising him on how to go about securing the damnation of The Patient (us). Along the way, Uncle Screwtape references The Enemy (God), since this is written from our enemy’s perspective.

I mentioned that Lewis had used an illustration that was helpful in my understanding of why God allows us to go through trials. He compares it to a child learning to walk. God takes his hand away, so we can stand on our own two feet, and though we stumble along the way, it is an integral part of our learning process. It is the catalyst for our own personal growth. I wanted to share the passage I was referring to on Sunday. When talking about the valleys we go through, or “troughs”, Lewis says the following:

And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs– to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it 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 virtual 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. (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, p. 39-40)

Let that be encouragement for today. Our enemy can exploit these “troughs” to gain ground, and to carry out his mission to steal, kill and destroy. He also realizes, however, that our God who seeks to redeem and make whole, is greater than any trough. There is the potential for major growth to occur within us, and ultimately, for God to be glorified.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4 (ESV)

How will you choose to view your next trough? Whose mission will you lend credence to?

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