Home > Uncategorized > The Defeat of the Accuser

The Defeat of the Accuser

September 5, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

The following is taken from The Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis. For those who require an explanation for the odd format, the point of view is that of a senior demon tempter, writing a letter to a junior demon tempter, who is trying to destroy the soul of a particular man. This is from the last letter of the book.

You have let a soul slip through your fingers. The howl of sharpened famine for that loss re-echoes at this moment through all the levels of the Kingdom of Noise down to the very Throne itself. It makes me mad to think of it. How well I know what happened at the instant when they snatched him from you! There was a sudden clearing of his eyes (was there not?) as he saw you for the first time, and recognised the part you had had in him and knew that you had it no longer.

I often remember that last sentence when I think about the part that evil has in me, and how I long to see it gone forever. It is strange because, as a sinner, I don’t quite know what it is that ought to be removed. Part of our fallen nature is that our condition itself is blurry–we don’t fully know good from evil. But it fills me with such hope to read those words above, to imagine the day when the evil that oppresses my heart is cast out forever, when I am therefore at peace and I am free to love God and neighbor without fear.

I’ve spent most of my days walking around never quite able to put away a nagging voice in my soul–not an audible voice, but an inner sense that is a mixture of guilt, fear, and what I can only call “the accuser.” Often, this accuser is not so always so distinguishable from my conscience, from the good moral sense that God has instilled in me and every human being, and through which the Holy Spirit honestly whispers the truth to me when I am in the wrong. I believe that part of the hold that evil has on my heart, and on the world, is to exploit and confuse this faculty, to use it to accuse us and bring us to rebellion and despair, rather than repentance and hope. Again, our knowledge of good and evil is blurred.

For me, I believe this often takes on the form of worrying. I’ve thought a lot recently about the nature of worry, and more generally of fear. I believe that fear is often a good thing: fear can flow from concern, from legitimate and self-forgetting love. Fear often inspires us to act, and thus helps us to love people. However, like any emotion or habit of thought, it is not good in itself, but must submit itself to the will of the Creator in order to become holy. So when I talk about worrying, I am thinking mostly about an unholy sort of fear.

Like I said, I often walk around with a nagging sense of…well, something, in my head. The sense that something is not right. I think a lot of it amounts to the belief that things will not turn out OK in the end. The accuser stalks me and makes me see how things can and will go wrong. It makes me think that I have sinned in a way that is unforgivable, or in a way that makes it impossible for me to always turn again to God in faith (two points of view which amount to the same thing, I suppose).

I will not say whether or to what extent this accuser is a supernatural and personal evil being. I will not say, because I do not know. I certainly do not think myself to be demon possessed, by any stretch of the imagination. But I do believe that all evil that oppresses us has its origin in our own will, the will of others, or in the actions of those spirits who belong to the “kingdom of darkness.” My best guess is that this accuser is a product of such oppressive beings, working alongside the weakness of my flesh and fueled by my own fallen imagination. What I will say for certain is that I am learning better the patterns of my accuser.

I won’t go into the specifics of my worries, because all of them are personal. And it is not important, really, what the subject matter is. What I want to highlight about my worry is the narrowness of its scope. I mean that I do not worry deeply about more than one or two things at once. So while I am obsessively worried about one thing, the other thing that I was obsessively worried about, perhaps merely days ago, recedes into the distance.

What I only recently realized is this: this receding actually tells me some important things, if I pay attention. First, it tells me that the habit of worrying is, apart from its subject matter, a psychological condition I am prone to somehow. I suppose I already knew this, but this is an easy thing for a worrier to forget. Second, it tells me that this condition does not care so much about its object. To personalize it a bit more, my accuser does not care what he is accusing me of–only that I become obsessed with it and, as a result, become spiritually crippled and driven to despair. If one worry fails to do this to me, he moves on to the next. He “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5.8)

Aware of this, I am able to look at my previous worries with more clarity, and in this light they usually seem ridiculous. I am embarrassed by the things that I have worried about, things have made such a big deal out of in my own mind. And I can consider my current worries in this light. I do not cast them aside altogether, because experience has also proven that some worries have a legitimate concern, a godly fear, at their heart. I pray and trust that God will help me to see that aspect of them and nothing else. From this point of view, worry cannot drive me to despair. I can be full of concerns, and yet have peace of heart.

The love of God is stronger than all that I’ve done wrong and all that I fear can happen to me, and he will show me the truth and see me through. It is important to know this, to know that God is for us, that he wants us to have peace, to see things with clarity, and to be free.

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