My Dear Globdrop,
Regretfully, I have received your last letter.
Centuries serving his Lowliness — lifetimes damning souls and training young devils — and yet you still find ways to surprise me. Are you or are you not but one soul away from active duty, from wearing our legion’s darkest colors on the frontlines?
If so, what should I expect to find you consumed with? Trapping? Spoiling? Sabotaging? Or, should I — with so much at stake — expect to find you playing with your food like a human child, giggling girlishly about? You have not tasted any meat pierced with your own spear, yet you trifle with the chase.
Whatsoever do you mean? I can hear your simple mind ask.
Your man, you report, went in for a routine shoulder surgery where, inexplicably, they pierced his lung. This alone causes you great joy, does it? You take great pride that “the fork pierced the prey.” You leave him unattended to tell me all about the victory.
Yes, the doctor’s blade took an unexpected (and delicious) detour, but tell me, has the blade yet punctured his soul? Has the wound brought forth an infection of spirit? Are you so lazy as to hope that the doctor has done your work for you?
You have failed miserably to realize that it is not the surgeon’s miscalculations but your patient’s response that gets at the vital thing, the eternal thing. Pierced spirits, seared consciences, scarred hearts, burnt beliefs — these we bend our dark labors toward. Tantalizing trials and savory sufferings serve as an opportunity for this, the real work.
Collapsed lungs — or more commonly: sick children, diseased spouses, faltering friendships, ruined romances, cursed careers, even the occasional dead pet — are mere playthings compared to what they can produce: a collapsed faith. This is to strike at the jugular, to slice the major artery. We love the vermin’s squeals and agonies, but never at the expense of our filled bellies.
At the expense? you wonder.
Suffering, you should know by now, is most unpredictable. Most assuredly it can harden the heart — pushing out the very possibility of a kind, powerful, all-knowing God. Or (as you better hope is not your case) it can be the very thing used by the Enemy to rob our knives and forks of their roast.
Have you not glanced over the apostle’s shoulder lately? Not all suffering ends up advancing our cause.
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3–5)
Who means for suffering to encourage such a horrid thing as endurance, nephew? Do we mean for suffering to produce in them — and I struggle to even write the word — hope? The punctured lungs, the groans and pains, at every turn, threaten to terribly backfire.
The Enemy knows this well enough, and for all his talk, he is as underhanded as any devil. Often, we think we have set the perfect trap, until we discover (too late) that he had tampered with our afflictions and temptations to fit his designs. Making them squeal is pleasurable, watching them squirm under torments make us howl and snort, but it amounts to a mere play if they escape to the Enemy and further enact his dreadful purposes. This, you must ensure, does not happen with your man.
Adding Iniquity to Injury
Have done, at once, with your prepubescent squeaks and premature gloating. The game is afoot, and the Enemy means to have him as surely as we do.
First, make his suffering personal.
The question of “How could a good God allow bad things to happen?” is not nearly as useful a question as “How could God allow this bad thing to happen to me?” This, of course, is the precise question to ask. The Enemy parades himself as the “personal God” at every turn; well, then, let him give his personal defense to the charges.
Where was this personal God during his surgery? Give no cover to the Enemy on this point. Press your man, as we have pressed for centuries: Of all people to face this loss, this pain, this nightmare — why me? Casually point out to your man that his “loving God,” his “refuge,” plays terrible favorites. None of the Christians he knows is facing such “lifelong complications” from such an improbable miscue.
Perish any consideration that the Enemy is attempting, at any rate, to twist our bed of thorns into an eternal crown of glory. Hide the Enemy’s lies that such afflictions are precisely measured for their eternal good or in any way purposeful.
Second, attend every stab.
Never overlook the power of the small inconveniences and stings of discomfort. You must be always on standby for your patient — ready to nurse every flicker of pain toward self-pity, anger, or delectable despair. When he goes to reply to that email one-handed, or has to ask his wife for help to put on his socks, or feels the residual irritations and distresses that will accompany him to the grave — be ready to sow bitterness and pour salt on the wound. No crack, never forget, is too small to exploit.
As you attend to his every moan, understand you will not be alone. The Enemy stands by them, always at their beck and call, like a drooling terrier, ready to remind them of his lies and calm them with his presence. In his embarrassing commitment to his fictions, his Spirit stands by to whisper to them. We can’t overhear most of it, but undoubtedly it has to do with Scripture telling them something like he “lovingly” designs their aches, pains, diseases, and deformities in this world, and to persuade them that he is their true comfort, and that this is not their true home. Fight whisper with whisper to keep the dogs from returning to their vomit.
Third, hide Tomorrow from him.
Finally, conceal any fictions about a Tomorrow that will make all sufferings “untrue.” Of such a Day that beaten, bruised, and bloodied apostle made consistent (and irritating) appeals to, calling the summation of his manifold (and mouthwatering) sufferings as nothing — nothing! — not even worth comparing to that Day of an “eternal weight of glory” which lies ahead (2 Corinthians 4:17) — a “glory” our Father Below weighed and found greatly wanting.
Curse God and Die
Affliction, nephew, is an uncertain flame, certainly not one to be trifled with. Job and his most useful wife prove a great illustration. Crushed with the fatal blows to property and household, this “upright” man tried to make our Father the fool, shaming us all by responding to murder, devastation, and destruction in such a servile and groveling way: “Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20).
But not all responded in kind. Job’s wife, whom our Master most mercifully and wisely preserved, responded most excellently: “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Curse God and die — I couldn’t have said it any better.
Here lies the battlefield, nephew. Not the inflicting of affliction, but the infecting of the soul. We want each man, woman, and child to renounce such a Poser, to spit upon their former loyalties, and curse him before heaven’s eyes. This, nephew, this, is where your man must be led:
To much more than a punctured lung
But to a depleted faith and denouncing tongue.
To teeth tightly clenched and fists held high
In flames to curse his god and die.
Damnation, Globdrop, damnation. Nothing less.
Your most expectant Uncle,