The beauty of the book is Lewis’ amazing insight into human nature, and the myriad ways we are led astray even when we think we’re at our very holiest.
I try to re-read the book every couple of years, because it’s one of those works that shows me something new each time I return to it. And, of course, this last reading was no exception. I found new insights, and they were doozies.
My favorite (this time) was about worry. In a “letter” about using fear as a way to lead souls away from God, “Screwtape” says, “[God] wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.”
Read that line again. Read it seven or eight times. Engrave it on your brain. God wants us to concentrate on what we do; Satan wants us to focus on what could happen to us. Ask yourself this question: How much time to I spend on the former, and how much on the latter?
As a child, I was a chronic, compulsive worrier. Call it first-born angst, childish insecurity, whatever tragedy always lurked around the next corner. If my parents were five minutes late arriving home, they were dead on the highway. If I had a headache, it was a brain tumor. The world was just one big danger zone, and I was a walking target.
I don’t worry much anymore. I’m not sure exactly what changed. I do remember, at about 12 years old, thinking about all of the time I’d wasted worrying about things that never happened. When truly bad things finally did happen, they were so far out of my control that the thought of wasting time worrying about them beforehand seemed ludicrous is retrospect.
And, most importantly, when those difficult times came, there was a grace sustaining me a gift from God I couldn’t possibly have foreseen. That grace brought and still brings a certain serenity and surrender to even the most difficult times.
(To read more Mary Beth Bonacci you may visit her website at www.reallove.net.)
It all boils down to this: life hurts sometimes. Suffering happens it’s unavoidable. In the end, we’re all “doomed.” We’re all gonna die, and we’ll probably suffer some along the way. Trying to avoid suffering is like trying to dodge raindrops. It’s out of our control.
But what is within our control? What we do. Why are we here? We’re here to know, love and serve God, and to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. (Anybody else remember the Baltimore Catechism?) If our focus is there, if our brains are occupied not by “What’s going to happen to me today?”, but rather ”What am I going to do for God today?”, life takes on a completely new perspective. Sure, suffering may come. And when it does, we’ll deal with it and God will help. But in the mean time, time and energy wasted worrying is time and energy we could’ve given to Him.
Worry is Satan’s way of tripping us up. He keeps us in a futile spin of trying to control the uncontrollable. It’s like a dog chasing his own tail he’ll never catch it, and meanwhile he can’t do anything else. When we worry, we’re distracted from what we should be doing living life and serving God.
What will happen to us is largely out of our control. What we do with the lives we’ve been given is largely within our control. Where, then, should our attention be focused? The answer seems obvious to me. Concentrate on what you’re doing loving those around you, making the world a better place and leading souls to God.