Resisting the Prowling Lion – 40 Days with Screwtape
Day 23 – Monday after 4th Sunday of Lent
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’.
MY DEAR WORMWOOD
To be sure, the Enemy wants men to think of the Future too – just so much as is necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity which will probably be their duty tomorrow. The duty of planning the morrow’s work is today’s duty; though its material is borrowed from the future, the duty, like all duties, is in the Present. This is not straw splitting. He does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it. We do. His ideal is a man who, having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him. But we want a man hag-ridden by the Future – haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth – ready to break the Enemy’s commands in the present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other – dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he will not live to see. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap on the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.
Your affectionate uncle
In the Sermon on the Mount we are cautioned about swearing ‘by our head’ as we cannot make one hair white or black. I’ve never met anyone who has by sheer strength of will turned white hair black. I do know, however, people who have managed successfully to turn their hair grey through worry – something about which Jesus cautions His listeners in the same Sermon!
It is so very easy to fall into the trap of being ‘hagridden by the future’ and buying the lie that we can do anything about the future. Apart from ‘planning the morrow’s work (which) is today’s duty’, all worrying about the future does is lead to much hand-rubbing amongst Screwtape and his minions. People obsessed with the future become dis-eased with life and are robbed of the possibility of any present joy or gratitude to God.
Of course we need to plan ahead but if we spend too much time worrying about tomorrow, which we know never comes, we will never ever be able to attend to today.
Currently I have meetings in my diary planned until 14 July 2026, however I am due to retire on 8 January 2026! I probably should not spend much time over worrying about missing an appointment or two and be more concerned about living and serving God and God’s people in the present…
If we are not careful we can be so busy thinking about the future that we miss out on what is happening now. Wasn’t it John Lennon who said, ‘Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans’? Yes, we do need to plan for the future but we also need to live the life God has placed in front of us.
Screwtape is correct. As soon as we become obsessed by the future and start chasing the rainbow’s end we (and especially I) take any means possible to make certain we secure that future. We choose our own path instead of following the way of the One who Loves us Best and lose the simple faith found in John Henry Newman’s Hymn ‘Lead Kindly Light’;
‘Keep Thou my feet;
I do not ask to see
The distant scene;
one step enough for me.’
I know that, even though I have appointments in my diary until the Summer of 2026, all I really need to do to find the path to the future is the next single step – one step enough – and must learn to be content with that. Listen to the words of Jesus:
Do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Yes, there is trouble today but there is joy as well. If we perpetually chase after tomorrow we will never reap the fruits of the Kingdom, the righteousness of God, or all those things that our Heavenly Father knows we need and wants to bestow on us.
And that would be sad…….
Yesterday is history,
tomorrow is a mystery,
today is God’s gift,
that’s why we call it the present.
(Attributed to Joan Rivers)
Share this, or a saying similar to it, with someone you know who, like Martha of Bethany is ‘worried and distracted by many things’ (Luke 10.41-42).
A Psalm To Ponder:
Psalm 21 – ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
Refrain: To God be the glory: alleluia!
It is your royal road , O God,
it is your sovereign way
– to lead in the spirit of service,
to be stewards in your household,
to be guardians one for another,
to guide others in your paths. Refrain:
As monarchs rejoice in your strength,
so may we exult in your help.
As the sovereign trusts in your faithfulness,
so do we rely on your steadfastness. Refrain:
You have given us our heart’s desire,
even the gift of your justice and wisdom.
You came to meet us with godly blessings,
and placed crowns of gold on our heads.
We asked you for life and you gave it us,
long days of contentment in your presence. Refrain:
You have destined even us for glory,
clothing us with splendour and honour.
You have promised us everlasting felicity,
and made us glad with the joy of your presence. Refrain:
By your light we shall penetrate the dark,
striving till they yield with our enemies.
All that is evil will wither at your coming,
as the chaff is consumed in the fire.
Those who stir malice will be overwhelmed,
their plots of mischief will come to nothing. Refrain:
No longer will their infection spread through the years,
to the third and the fourth generations.
You will put all their scheming to flight,
stunning them with a glance from your eye. Refrain:
Be exalted, O God, in your strength,
the power of your love and your truth,
your wisdom and your justice for ever:
we shall sing for joy and praise your name. Refrain:
Sovereign of the universe, who has destined even us for glory, with crowns upon our heads, enable us in your Spirit to serve one another with justice, that none may be the victim of exploitation and violence, of cruelty and greed; we pray this in the name of Jesus Christ the Poor Man of Nazareth. 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
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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