carrying out–from the will alone–duties which have lost all relish

C.S. Lewis–to demonstrate the underworld’s attack upon the human heart–constructed a mid-level demonic character named Screwtape who busies himself instructing less experienced demons on how to undermine their assigned human.  From tempting to discouraging to picking apart their faith, Screwtape shows less-effective devils how to dismantle the human soul.  Lewis–using this often-humorous, frighteningly obvious once seen, and always starkly true perspective of the demon teaches us about our daily fight to keep close to God in spite of this quiet and lurking spiritual attack.

Screwtape (an expert demon—wise beyond his eons) in this excerpt instructs his rookie demon nephew, Wormwood, on how to understand the human—the human he’s assigned to spoil—who is in a ditch of discouragement about God feeling “absent” from a season of his life:

[The Enemy—God] is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning [of His relationship with a human].  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.  But He never allows this state of affairs to last long.  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 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…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”

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