The Screwtape Letters: Day 5

A 31 day commentary by Madelyn Christian Peterson

Although fiction, beloved Christian apologetic novel The Screwtape Letters certainly does not lack spiritual truths. Its 31 chapters are a perfect format for a month long commentary series. Join me as we break down CS Lewis’s beloved novel and get insight on the spirit war in a creative and fun new way. Want more? Find a copy & read along as we dissect the letters of Screwtape!

Chapter 5

As reports of the assassination of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani swept across new outlets early Friday morning, rumors of war briskly followed. Instantly social media erupted with fears of an impending ‘World War III.’

As I studied the ST Letters, I couldn’t help but parallel our own weekend headlines to Screwtape’s fifth letter, which reveals Wormwood is ‘delirious with joy’ as “the European humans have started another of their wars,” referring to World War II.

Surely, many can relate to “the patient’s sleepless night”, and with good reason: rumors of war, fires raging around the globe, growing environmental concerns and incredible political tension within our own nation. The world seems out of control. Television, media, and our own intuition points to the notion that things are getting worse.

The earth from space, courtesy of

Though I care deeply about environmental and humanitarian concerns, I’ve learned to no longer let them incite me to fear. Has there yet been a time when humans have not known war and famine, sickness and disease? Has our God not kept us through ice ages and asteroids and world flooding?

Could it be, perhaps, that the world’s actually not getting worse, only our perception of it?

I’m not alone in this thinking.

In his book Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, Swedish physician and professor Hans Rosling writes, “step by step, year by year the world is improving,” yet everyone he asks, “thinks the world is more frightening, more violent, and more hopeless–in short, more dramatic– than it really is.”

Photo courtesy of Paula Ghete, you can find her book review here.

Rosling relied on numbers to illuminate a clearer view of the world, which just so happens to be brighter than what we imagine, and showed us we can be ‘quite wrong about what we think we know’ (his TED talks blew my mind).

Still, concern arose within me as I read about the Iran conflict; each line regurgitating more uneasiness, fine thrills in the pit of my stomach, my mind invaded with images of death and destruction.

I had a choice to make, as we so often do: let fear take root or let peace cover me.

I chose peace.

Image courtesy of web universal

Screwtape hoped his “terror-pictures of the future” would ignite enough fear in me to spark a chain reaction, thrusting me towards becoming “an extreme patriot or an ardent pacifist.” Fear encourages your more extreme inclinations to take over.

Often we chose fear and worry because it feels like a logical, reasonable, appropriate response to bad news. After all, what we hear and see in the natural world tells us to sound the alarms.

But this morning as I read my chapter of Romans, I was reminded it is better to put my hope in God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.


God took me through the story of Abraham and Sarah, who chose to believe God’s promise of a legitimate son even when everything in the natural pointed to the impossibility (being they were both in their nineties).

The rest of the chapter Screwtape warns Wormwood, “not to hope too much from a war.” He argues that though “the immediate fear and suffering of the humans” is entertaining, there is no value in war if its not “bringing souls to Our Father below.”

He reminds Wormwood of their true goal: “undermining faith and preventing the formation of virtues,” and that “the anguish and bewilderment of a human soul” is simply reward.

Illustration by Max Löffler, GQ magazine 2018

I knew demons hate us and they want us to die, but it wasn’t until today I realized they hate us so much that they don’t want us to die if we’re just gonna go to heaven.

Screwtape describes it like this, “When I see the temporal suffering of humans who finally escape us, I feel as if I had been allowed to taste the first course of a rich banquet and then denied the rest. It is worse than not to have tasted it at all.”

I always thought the enemy reveled in war, as he loves to steal, kill and destroy, but Screwtape’s view makes sense in light of the previous methods we discovered the enemy utilizes.

Although divisive and destructive by nature, the enemy recognizes war can:

  • band people together
  • divert attention “from themselves to values and causes which they believe to be higher than the self”
  • prepare people for death
  • make people think about what comes after death

inevitably turning people to seek out God.

Soldiers pray.

War wakes people out of the stream. It can cause us to stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking of things greater than ourselves, which we learned in Chapter 1 is a big no-no in the eyes of the enemy. He’d rather us die in nursing homes than on a battlefield exhibiting the self-sacrificial behavior of Christ, which I’m sure he finds disemboweling.

Although we may suffer a while, joy comes in the morning. The Lord didn’t promise us it’d be easy, that there’d be no pain; like Screwtape says, we were “plainly told by Him that suffering is an essential part of what He calls Redemption.”

But even in death we have hope that His promises of life will be fulfilled in us through Christ Jesus. All of His promises are yes and amen. So any kind of long-suffering you are in, know that God is there with you in the midst.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

‭‭John‬ ‭16:33‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

‭‭I John‬ ‭5:4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬


“Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

‭‭I John‬ ‭5:5‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

God uses what the enemy intends to harm us for good, and the enemy knows that. He’ll forever be one step behind God. You can imagine how this infuriates him, how exhausting it must be for his big plans to fail over and over again, and to know they always will; yet being so blinded by hatred and jealously he cannot stop.

Now that’s a crazy thought, the devil really is mad.

Lord Jesus,

Give me faith like Abraham to walk in full assurance of Your promises. I thank You I can walk in peace and victory, knowing You have overcome the world. I trust in your perfect plan God, even when I don’t see the whole picture, I trust in Your goodness.

In Jesus name,


What about you? Do you think the world’s getting better or worse? Let me know in the comments and

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