WHEN I WAS A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT IN BROOKLYN. . .
. . .my English teacher gave our class this assignment: Write to some author whose book you have recently read. Well, I had just read Professor C. S. Lewis’ book, Screwtape Letters. (It is an imaginative but powerful book—letters from a senior devil (Screwtape) to a junior devil (Wormwood) on how to keep people from becoming a Christian. (Follow the ‘enemy,’ i.e. God.) It seemed like an amazing book showing how Satan tempts and deceives.
So in my senior year at Fort Hamilton High School, I wrote to C.S. Lewis at Oxford University and asked if he had come under spiritual attack because of writing this book. I also asked him (Can you imagine I asked him?), “What do you do to deal with temptation in your own life?” I was amazed to get a hand written response. (Few students in the class got any responses.) Years later Lewis’ assistant, Walter Hooper indicated in Christianity Today that he was looking for anyone who might have received a letter from Dr. Lewis. I ended up sending him the original which is now in the special C. S. Lewis section of the Oxford University Library.
Now, to bring all this to the present. I asked a local acquaintance, David McCasland—who writes devotionals for ‘Our Daily Bread’—if there was any way to turn Lewis’ letter and my high school situation into an interesting article that could help everyone in our battles with temptation. Only a small part was used in the devotional. (See enclosed full letter from Lewis to me, as well as the McCasland devotional.)
I hope it will be a blessing to you.
P.S. You will notice at the end Lewis said he would write more, but he was ill. He died two years later the same day President Kennedy was shot November 22, 1963.
13 Oct. 1961
Dear Mr. Karlsen—
Your letter did not reach me till today. Of course I have had and still have plenty of temptations. Frequent and regular prayer, and frequent and regular communions are a great help, whether they feel at the time as if they are doing you good or whether they don’t. I also found great help in monthly confession to a wise old clergyman. Perhaps, however, the most important thing is to keep on; not to be discouraged however often one yields to the temptation, but always to pick yourself up again and ask forgiveness. In reviewing your sins, don’t either exaggerate them or minimize them. Call them by their ordinary names and try to see them as you would see the same faults in somebody else—no special blackening or whitewashing. Remember the conditions on which we are promised forgiveness; we shall always be forgiven provided that we forgive all who sin against us. If we do that we have nothing to fear. If we don’t, all else will be in vain. Of course there are other helps which are mere commonsense. We must learn by experience to avoid either trains of thought or social situations, which for us (not necessarily for everyone) lead to temptations. Like motoring—don’t wait till the last moment before you put on the brakes but put them on gently and quietly, while the danger is still a good way off. I would write at more length but I am ill.
God bless you.