Have you ever had the amazing spiritual “high” after a great week of camp? Or felt like God is so near you could almost reach out and touch Him? Do you ever feel like God is really far away? Or do you sometimes wonder if he’s even there at all?
My kids and I were listening to the fabulous Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre production of CS Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters in the car a while back. In this book, a “head demon” is writing to his student about how to keep “those awful” humans from knowing God.
The whole book is brilliant, but one particular “letter” always sticks out to me: The one where Screwtape tells his student about the “Law of Undulation.” This law is the reality that sometimes Christians can feel very close to God and sometimes we can feel very far away. Screwtape’s advice is that, when humans feel far from God, they need to believe this is how they will always feel. They should doubt if they even know God, if there even is a God, and if it is at all worth it to continue serving Him when it seems like no prayers are being answered and no blessings are filling their cups.
Have you ever been there? I know I have. The Christian life isn’t easy, and we sometimes live with the false expectation that it should be, that if we know Christ and serve Him, everything is going to be terrific, all the stoplights will be green and all the cute shirts will be on sale.
The advice, “unknowingly” given by Screwtape in this book, is that God allows those periods where we feel distant from him – what one author has called “the dark night of the soul” – to help us grow. He wants us to be motivated, not emotions, but by faith. To obey even when things aren’t going well, to rejoice even when life is tough, to love even when we don’t feel like it.
This state, Screwtape says, is “dangerous.” He warns his student to do all he can to prevent humans from understanding the truth that there are waves – undulations – in the Christian life. Good times, bad times, happy times, sad times, times we feel close to God, and times we feel like he is a million miles away. Because when we understand that, we are free to serve God regardless of how we feel or what circumstances we might currently be in.
So, my friends, let us be “dangerous.” Let us commit ourselves wholeheartedly to serving our Savior no matter what. Even on bad days. Even when people treat us poorly. Even when we are in the middle of terrible circumstances. Let us “ride the waves” of life and not be sucked into their undertow.