The Screwtape Letters, written by C.S. Lewis, is a collection of letters written by the senior demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood. In these letters, Screwtape advises Wormwood on how to secure the damnation of a man Wormwood is tempting, known in the book as “the Patient.”
The Same Material
In one letter to Wormwood, Screwtape says,
“The great (and toothsome) sinners are made out of the very same material as those horrible phenomena, the great Saints.“
This is meant as encouragement to Wormwood – he has hope in destroying the soul of “the Patient” as long as he keeps doing as he has being taught. The great men of the earth are no different than those that have succumbed to temptation; the only difference is that one is further down the road to hell then the other. It’s only a matter of persuasion. It is only a matter of time.
Screwtape is focusing on the saint; the saint can be brought down to the level of a sinner because they are made out of the very same material. Yet what of the converse? What if we focus instead on the sinner? We realize that the sinner can be brought up to the level of the saint because they are made out of the very same material.
Bringing Us Back into the Fold
Sometimes we succumb to the temptations of the Adversary. When this happens, it is easy to feel despair and sorrow, or feelings of worthlessness and guilt. What’s worse, the Spirit withdraws and we can no longer feel its’ influence as strongly as we once had.
These feelings have purpose. That purpose is not to plunge us into a pit of hopelessness. God, our Father, does not want us to feel that there is no way out, that we have no choice but to give up. Instead he wants to help motivate us to change. Paul said that godly sorrow “worketh repentance unto salvation“(2 Corinthians 7:10). Alma, speaking to a son that had committed grievous sexual sin, counseled him,
“And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance. O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility” (Alma 42:29-30)
There is hope. We don’t have to give in to despair. We can become saints, through the atonement of Christ, even if we are the vilest of sinners (Mosiah 3:19).
Don’t loose hope if you are entrenched in sin. Believe that you, in fact, are made out of the very same material as the elect, and can truly be cleansed and changed. That is the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, unto all who are willing to believe in and follow him – that you, personally, can become clean and freed from the depths of sin. You can be elevated, and feel the power God’s mercy, love, and long-suffering in your very heart.