In a recent blog comment Tom posted a gem from C. S. Lewis’ twisted little satire Screwtape Letters. It forms a nice complement to the previous Lewis quote. Here we see how Lewis articulates the Christian’s growth in godliness when the desire to obey has vanished but the intention to obey has not. Multiple themes converge here in this rich, little paragraph. I commend it to you for your slow contemplation.
“He [God] leaves the creature [believer] 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 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 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.” (p. 40)
One thought on “Learning to Walk Holy”
And back to the previous Lewis quote – I read this last night in Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul: When a professing man can proceed with his accustomed religious duties, strictly, regularly, formally, and yet experience no enjoyment of God in them, no filial nearness, no brokenness and tenderness, and no consciousness of sweet return, he may suspect that his soul is in a state of secret and incipient backsliding from God. Satisfying and feeding his soul – if feeding it may be called – with a lifeless form; what stronger symptom needs he of his real state? A healthy, growing state of religion in the soul demands more for its nourishment and support than this. A believer panting for God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, grace thriving, the heart deeply engaged in spiritual duties, lively, prayerful, humble, and tender, ascending in its frame and desires, – a state marked by these features cannot be tied down to a lifeless, spiritless form of religious duties. (Winslow, Octavius. Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul. 5th ed. Lonon: John Farquhar Shaw, 1853.)