Article by: Sarah Koontz
I’ll never forget the first time I read CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. I could not have been more than fourteen or fifteen years old.
I was astounded by the creativity and artistic talent of the author, yet disgusted and unimpressed by the demons’ strategies illuminated in the letters.
Although Lewis stated that this book was “not fun to write,” it became one of his most famous works.
I love the warning he included in the preface of this book, “Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle . . . There is wishful thinking in hell as well as on earth.”
I imagined myself a modern-day CS Lewis as I sat down to pen my own “Screwtape Letter.”
It was an interesting exercise indeed.
To visualize the subtle ways my archenemy plots my demise—the methods and strategies he uses to hamper my effectiveness.
I found it helpful to step outside of my own experience and view it from his perspective.
It amazed me how simple yet effective his strategies can be.
He takes normal, everyday happenings and crafts them into weapons.
He uses overwhelm, frustration, dissatisfaction, and isolation for his destructive means.
And he seeks to drive a wedge between my God and me by simply filling my time and depleting my energy.
If you have never considered penning your own “Screwtape letter,” I encourage you to participate in this valuable exercise.
Three Questions to Ask as You Write Your Own Screwtape Letter
It’s helpful to focus on one major area of sinfulness in your life. Try to clearly describe the way your flesh, the world, and the enemy tempt you in that particular area.
Your letter should answer these three basic questions:
- When are you most susceptible to temptation in this area?
- What consequences do you associate with this sin (positive and negative)?
- How do you tend to rationalize away this form of sin?
To help you along, I have included a version of my “Screwtape letter” in today’s article. I also included a synopsis of the enemy’s strategy in my life and a biblical response to his attacks.
I hope and pray that this exercise helps you grow in godliness and equips you to fight back against the enemy of your soul.I hope and pray that this exercise helps you grow in godliness and equips you to fight back against the enemy of your soul.
Screwtape Letter: An Example
By Sarah KoontzWe have her right where we want her. She is tired. She is overwhelmed. She is frustrated. Now is the time to remind her of all the times people have let her down. It is important to fill her head and heart with dissatisfaction so that she pulls back from people and finds herself isolated and insulated from others. I find that people like her are most vulnerable when they are alone—they are more susceptible to our strategies when they aren’t allowing other people to speak into their lives.
When she wakes up, remind her of everything she needs to accomplish. Don’t just focus on today’s tasks—fill her mind with tomorrow’s burdens as well. Make sure she is so distracted that she feels like she doesn’t have time to sit and read her Bible. Specifically, keep her mind working so hard that she doesn’t think to pray. Prayer is what we want to prevent. When she isn’t prayerful, she lacks peace, and she tends to strive more.
If we can keep her focused on the tasks of the day, we can distract her from her power source. This is essential! Clutter her heart, mind, and day so she can’t see clearly. Make sure to interrupt her often and keep her mind racing from one thing to the next. She doesn’t like unplanned disturbances, so do what you can to keep her off-balance while forcing her to restructure and reorganize her day over and over.
If you can cause chaos in her home, even better! Fill her children with discontent and find ways to get them to fight with one another. This type of noise serves our purposes well. She can’t focus when emotions are high in her home, so the more discord you can cause, the better.
Once you have her feeling isolated, distracted, and discouraged—it’s time to remind her of all the sacrifices she’s made for others. Get her stewing about how she has to do everything independently and can’t depend on anyone else. If we can keep her busy accomplishing tasks and achieving goals in her own energy, we can prevent her from her heavenly rewards. If we can make certain the motivation of her heart is self-focused, we can steal her joy and distract her from her ultimate purpose.
Never forget that she is the most dangerous when she is rested, connected, and spiritually minded. Our goal is to keep all her energy focused on herself so that she is not able to serve God and others to her maximum potential. A distracted, discouraged saint is just as useless to God as a sinner. We can’t allow her to be energized through prayer, encouraged by community, or plugged into her spiritual power sources. The only way we can accomplish our purposes through her is by keeping her bogged down in the day-to-day tasks and challenges of life. No distraction is too small, no conflict is too insignificant! Just keep her busy in any manner possible, and you will see the fruit of your efforts multiply tenfold. You’ve got this! Never give up, and never give in. Even when she has a good day or week, or month—she is still vulnerable to this method of attack.
Write a Biblical Response to Your Screwtape Letter
Now that you’ve penned your “Screwtape letter,” it’s important to follow it up with a biblical response.
Writing a response to your tempter is an empowering experience.
It will help you recognize that his strategies lack the power to distract or destroy you.
This exercise reveals his limited thinking, creativity, and ability to impact your daily life.
This exercise helped me uncover three simple strategies Satan often employs in my life:
- Reminding me of all the times people have let me down.
- Filling my head and heart with dissatisfaction.
- Interrupting me often and keeping me racing from one thing to the next.
It felt good to fight back and to use God’s Word to combat his lies.Writing a response to your tempter is an empowering experience. It feels good to fight back and use God's Word to combat his lies.
Respond to Your Screwtape Letter: An Example
By Sarah KoontzI intercepted your letter, and I have to admit, I am sort of disappointed by your lack of creativity. It seems to me that you are attempting the same worn-out strategies you have always attacked me with. I see right through you, and I am not impressed.
First of all, it’s absolutely ridiculous that you prey on me when I am weak. Are you afraid of me when I am rested, nourished, and equipped to fight back? If so, what does that say about your own resilience and fortitude? You are opportunistic and underhanded in your methods because you know you can’t fight fair and win (1 Pt 5:8-9).
Secondly, I find it humorous that you are still attempting to separate me from my support system. Haven’t you seen this strategy fail time and again throughout my life? What makes you think it will succeed this time? You keep treating me like a weak, vulnerable, isolated lamb. But you forget that I am God’s lamb, and I have the full protection of the Shepherd as I reside in the safety of His flock (Ps 23).
Your attempts to distract me with my to-do list are actually quite funny. Have you forgotten that my full-time job is studying Scripture and writing Bible studies? How on earth would getting me to focus more on my work life serve your slimy purposes? Everything I do every single day is unified by my undivided attention to the call of my Father on my life. Even when I don’t make time to read the Bible each day, it is thoroughly written upon my heart. I live and breathe and exist in His Word, and not a moment goes by where it is not being applied to my life (Ps 119:11).
And finally, you may succeed in your attempts to steal a moment or distract me from Christ’s purpose for a brief time. But you will lose in the end. Nothing you throw at me will stick; no strategy you employ against me will prosper (Is 54:17). You have lost this battle—you will never have the victory you long for in my life—because you are unable to penetrate my armor (Eph 6:11-12).
The Spirit conquers.
I am geared up. I will stand firm. I have the strength to fight back. I have studied my enemy and sharpened my sword. I don’t fight for victory; I fight victoriously!
Concluding Thoughts and Application
God’s Word gives us hope, and His truth equips us to extinguish the enemy’s lies.
Sharing my “Screwtape Letter” and response with you has provided a unique opportunity to shine a light on my internal battle against the enemy.
The core truths I used to fight Satan’s deception include:
- Satan is opportunistic and underhanded in his methods because he knows he can’t fight fair and win (1 Pt 5:8-9).
- Our enemy forgets that I am God’s lamb, and I have the full protection of the Shepherd as I reside in the safety of His flock (Ps 23).
- I live and breathe and exist in God’s Word, and not a moment goes by where it is not being applied to my life (Ps 119:11).
- Satan will never have the victory he longs for in my life—because he cannot penetrate my armor (Eph 6:11-12).
I enjoyed this activity and felt it was helpful in my spiritual formation journey.
I hope you set aside some time to write your letters soon. There is something transformative about shining light on the lies and responding to them directly.
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” Rev.12:10-12 HCSB