1275) The Temptations of Middle-age

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C. S. Lewis’s classic book The Screwtape Letters is an imaginative and powerful look at temptation.  Lewis creates two characters, Screwtape and Wormwood, who are demons in the service of Satan.  Their job it is to tempt a certain Englishman so they can corrupt him, destroy his faith, and win his soul for the devil.  Screwtape is an old and experienced tempter, and the ‘author’ of these thirty-one letters.  He is writing to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and inexperienced tempter, on how to get this Englishman away from God and into hell.  Everything is reversed in this book– the “Enemy” is God and “Our Father Below” is the devil.  The “Patient” is a typical human being, facing the kinds of temptations we are all familiar with, discussed from the viewpoint of the tempter.  In this brief piece, Screwtape advises Wormwood on using the passage of time to wear down a soul.


     The Enemy has guarded him from you through the first great wave of temptations.  But, if only he can be kept alive, you have time itself for your ally.  The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity, or, middle-aged adversity, are excellent campaigning weather.  You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere.  The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it— all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul.  

     If, on the other hand, the middle years prove prosperous, our position is even stronger.  Prosperity knits a man to the world.  He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding its place in him.  His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth, which is just what we want.


I Peter 5:8  —  Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Mark 14:38  —  (Jesus said), “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Psalm 90:12  —  Teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.


Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

–Jesus, Matthew 6:13