#ProwlingLion · Bible Study · Church of England · Felixstowe · Growing in God · Lent · poem · Prayer · Screwtape

Resisting the Prowling Lion – Day 15

Resisting the Prowling Lion – 40 Days with Screwtape

Day 15 – Friday after 2nd Sunday of Lent

To Read:

From The Screwtape Letters:

Screwtape, a senior demon, is offering advice to Wormwood his nephew, an apprentice demon.  The language he uses is ‘upside down’ referring to God as ‘the Enemy’ and the devil as ‘Our Father Below’.


But there is an even better way of exploiting the Trough; I mean through the patient’s own thoughts about it.   As always, the first step is to keep knowledge out of his mind.   Do not let him suspect the Law of Undulation.   Let him assume that the first ardours of his conversion might have been expected to last, and ought to have lasted, forever, and that his present dryness is an equally permanent condition.   Having once got this misconception well fixed in his head, you may then proceed in various ways.   It all depends on whether your man is of the desponding type who can be tempted to despair, or of the wishful-thinking type who can be assured that all is well.  

The former type is getting rare among the humans.   If your patient should happen to belong to it, everything is easy.   You have only got to keep him out of the way of experienced Christians (an easy task now-a-days), to direct his attention to the appropriate passages in scripture, and then to set him to work on the desperate design of recovering his old feelings by sheer will-power, and the game is ours.   If he is of the more hopeful type, your job is to make him acquiesce in the present low temperature of his spirit and gradually become content with it, persuading himself that it is not so low after all.   In a week or two you will be making him doubt whether the first days of his Christianity were not, perhaps, a little excessive.   Talk to him about ‘moderation in all things’.   If you can once get him to the point of thinking that ‘religion is all very well up to a point’, you can feel quite happy about his soul.   A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all – and more amusing.

Your affectionate uncle


To Reflect:

So what is it to be?  Glass half-empty or glass half-full?  Are you naturally despondent or prone to wishful thinking?  Either position is grist for Screwtape’s mill.  Is it not better instead to realise that, regardless of the current level in the glass of our faith, there is always room for more, pardon the pun, ‘Spirit’?

When we become better at understanding the undulations of the life of faith we will be more able to realise that no matter where we are now – feeling emptied and despondent or semi-satisfied and content for moderation in the things of faith – what we have is but a mere glimmer of that for which we are destined.

The story of the final years of the life of David Watson, sometime vicar of St Michael-le-Belfry next to York Minster, has always encouraged me.  Someone blessed with an exceptional ministry of preaching and healing, in the years of his strength, he would proclaim exultantly ‘The best is yet to be’.  But also, and more wonderful I find, when suffering a terminal cancer and finding his ministry cut short he would still proclaim, but more sotto voce ‘the best is yet to be’.  For David, there was always more room for God……

We dare not settle for either despondency or ‘moderation in all things’ – echoes of the church in Laodicea again – or else we will miss out on the spring tide of the Spirit of God who is ever eager to lift us to a better knowledge of the One who Loves us Best.

How do we avoid these twin temptations of being content and dis-content with ‘things as they are’.  Those of us who belong to an Established church or a large denomination know this challenge all too well.  It is all too easy to proclaim that things are meant to run down (half-empty) or look over our shoulders and say ‘well at least we are doing better than St Nobody’s in the next parish’ – and settle for the ‘moderation in all things’ of the half-full glass of faith.

One Sunday during a communion service something happened which made me smile and think of the call to being completely filled.  The church I was at used two chalices for communion (both filled ‘half-full’ during the Offertory) when the server with the wine was distracted by a wonderful gift of groceries brought forward for the local food bank.  This meant that one chalice ending up being half-filled twice!  This over-filling was rectified come the end of the service and I hope the team of servers weren’t breathalysed on their way home from church!  It was an acted-out parable of the truth of the law of undulation.   Whilst in this world we may be subject to troughs as well as crests but no matter how low the trough of despair (or moderation) may be, we are not faced with the prospect of emptiness but the wonderful possibility of being further filled!

To Do:

Ask God for something extra to add to your ‘glass of faith’.

It may be an answer to a prayer, a task to take on, or a duty to lay down. 

Whatever it may be see it as an opportunity to recognise the law of undulation at work within you and give thanks that ‘the best is yet to be’.

‘There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.’

C.S. Lewis – Collected Letters

A Psalm To Ponder:


Refrain:        Come with the judgement that chastens, come with the wounds that heal.

Love flashes like lightning, 

cuts through the heart of evil, 

shows up pride in its ghastly light, 

surprises our hidden boasting.     Refrain:

Love thunders in judgement, 

sounding from horizon to horizon, 

searching the depths of our being, 

proclaiming the truth from the rooftops.     Refrain:

In awe and wonder we look to you, 

O God, creating anew through your judgement, 

sovereign and free in discernment, 

at last making things right.     Refrain:

You hold a strange cup in your hands, 

foaming with wine, astringent with spices.

You give it to us to drink, 

to test the extent of our wickedness.

We drain it down to the dregs, 

and see ourselves as we are.     Refrain:

The wine like liquid flame 

burns through the layers of evil.

Like a hammer to the skull, 

it breaks the crusts of habit.     Refrain:

Drained of our evil we tremble, 

empty and naked before you.

We would be glad of the rags of the starving, 

so defenceless do we feel.     Refrain:

The oppressed and the dying look into our eyes, 

stretch out their hands in their weakness, 

not to receive – we have nothing

– but to lift us out of fear and despair.    Refrain:

In them do we see you, O Christ,

eyes so clear and compassionate,

forgiving our wrong at the cost of your life, 

with wounded palms embracing us.    Refrain:

We praise you, dear God, 

we give you the glory.

We will tell of your wonders, 

of your judgment and mercy.     Refrain:

Living Flame, refine us in the truth, burn out all that is impure with the fiery eye of clarity, and warm into life the frozen battered child that longs to live again.   AMEN.

(Jim Cotter)


Please Note:  These reflections are also published on my blog: suffolkvicarhomes.com on Twitter as @SuffolkVicar, and on my public Facebook page Rev Andrew Dotchin

If you would like them as a daily email please send a request to vicar@felixparish.com


Quotes from The Screwtape Letters are copyright © 1942 C.S. Lewis Pte

Prayers from Psalms for a Pilgrim People are copyright © 1989, 1991, 1993 Jim Cotter

Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

These Reflections,  ‘Resisting the Prowling Lion’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2023

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