I have been writing about how C.S. Lewis, in a variety of different genres, continually main the same points on pain, God, and the human condition: God is a good and loving Father who allows us to go through a needed death so that we can become who we truly are.
These points are stated again in The Screwtape Letters, published in 1942. This book, like the broadcast talks, was published during World War II, and it takes the themes of The Problem of Pain and especially Mere Christianity and shows them worked out in fictional, letter form. What is unique, showing Lewis’s creative flourish, is how the letters are written from the perspective of a demon, who specializes in tempting human “patients”. The senior demon, Screwtape, is writing to his nephew Wormwood, and giving him advice about how to tempt his human – all for the goal of making him a meal for the demons in hell to feast upon. In the fictional narrative, the human patient becomes interested in Christianity, then becomes a nominal Christian, then a truly devoted Christian. This story allows Lewis to ignite the imagination and approach his central themes from a different perspective. This also allows his points to be illustrated in more specific situations, making his message have more power.
The Screwtape Letters are about a human making the journey back to God; they are a fictional version of a human repenting and a demon fighting that repentance. Wormwood is encouraged to get the human to be annoyed as much as possible by his mother’s sideways looks at him, though she may mean nothing by it. The demon is to cause the human to think that she does it all on purpose and specifically to annoy him (p.13). Screwtape says that war (World War II) is entertaining for demons because they love to see human suffering. But war can work against the demonic goal because humans begin to fight for good causes and turn to God. War also has constant reminders of death; demons do not like this because they are trying to get humans focused on worldliness and materialism (p.22). Later in the book Screwtape will talk again about death: demons have taught humans to think of death as the prime evil and survival as the greatest good (p.154). The truth is, the longer humans are alive the more they can be corrupted and forget that their true home is not here.
Screwtape gives an insight to Wormwood, repeating Lewis’s main point: human suffering is an essential part of redemption. Faith destroyed by suffering was not faith at all; a short burst of pain may hurt faith but can be restored even stronger by God (p.23). God’s plan is for a human being to accept with patience the tribulation dealt out to him; the demons’ plan is to get humans to focus on fear in general. According to Screwtape (and Lewis), God doesn’t help humans with fears in general but will strengthen humans going through actual pain and suffering (p.25). Human suffering is an essential part of redemption, but it is not God’s ultimate goal. God is a hedonist at heart; He is all about pleasure and His will is for humans to experience boundless pleasure (p.118).
Lewis also answers, from a demonic fictionalized perspective, how Christians could be responsible for causing pain. When the human in the story initially becomes a Christian, he is still under the influence of Wormwood, who is advised to fill him with pride for his new faith. He is to think that he is the right type of Christian, the best type (p.132). The demon is also to cause the human to be angry when people steal “his” time, as ludicrous as it is to think that a human could ever possess time. The human is to think of it as people imposing a “grievous tax” upon him rather than something that God is asking him to do for another (p.112). Even a Christian can worship the false god of self and cause much pain in the world. Even a Christian must continue to repent and let God kill the self so that he or she can become their true self.