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Screwtape Letters Wk 4 of 7

July 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

The Problem with the Future
The Screwtape Letters Week 4 of 7

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He does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it. We do. His ideal is a man who, having worked all the-good-portion-pictureday for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him. But we want a man hag-ridden by the Future – haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth – ready to break the Enemy’s commands in the present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other – dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he will not live to see. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present. – The Screwtape Letters p. 77-78 (Chapter 15, Paragraph 4)

When I read this passage, I thought it was good advice…for other people. I have a few friends and relatives who get caught up in the future. But me? I’ve never really considered myself a worrier. I don't tend to get too caught up in things I can't control.

Or so I thought.

While I don’t generally focus on the future, I don’t think my frame of mind is what God is looking for either. The fact that I keep myself so busy that I don’t have time to think is no reason to pat myself on the back for not getting caught up in the future. In my case, I don’t necessarily think about the present either – I walk right through it, come out on the other side, and fall into bed, exhausted.

However, if I were being completely honest with myself, when I get around to thinking at all, it's very difficult NOT to think about the future.

Case in point.  After reading the above passage from our book, I set off for a morning walk. My experience was surprisingly revealing.

About a month ago, we learned that we’re expecting our seventh child (yea!). However…although I have heard the heartbeat, I’ve suffered two miscarriages in less than two years.  Understandably, when I allow myself to think about this baby, it is with a sort of cautious excitement.

While I accept that I have no control over the outcome of this pregnancy, I have not exactly washed my mind of the whole subject and committed the issue to Heaven. Rather, I’ve been avoiding the issue altogether (perhaps one reason for my recent bout with television?)

So during this particular walk, I didn’t avoid it. I thought about it.

And the anxiety began.  One thought led to another which led to another and another, until my heart rate skyrocketed, not from physical exertion, but from all the mental anguish I created for myself.

Will this baby be with us in seven months? What if we have to endure another miscarriage? On the other hand, what if this baby is with us in seven months? Doing the parenting math, I will be about 64 before this child is out of college!  I still have 21 years of direct parental responsibility. And then the big bomb hit – This could mean 19 more years of homeschooling (As much as I enjoy teaching my kids, this realization just about caused a heart attack right there on the street).

At some point through all my antics, Screwtape slipped into the chaos. And he was smiling.  (A little too cocky for his own good.)  This was an instant reminder that, while the Evil One may want me to focus on the future, God does not. For my own sake, He’d much rather I remain in the present.

So I did.  I physically stopped myself, making a conscious effort to focus on the present before I took another step.

The first thing I noticed was my immediate environment. I was walking along a beautiful country road in hilly Eastern Nebraska. There was a gorgeous sun shining above my head and farmland as far as the eye could see. The road was lined with all sorts of foliage – from colorful wildflowers to soaring oak trees – that provided plenty of shade from the scorching sun.

My first coherent thought in the present? GOD IS SO GOOD!

This recognition opened a streak of gratitude a mile wide.

Thank you, Lord, for the beautiful land. Thank you for the beautiful sky. Thank you for giving me the ability to take this walk. Thank you for the home in which we are blessed to live. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have this baby right now. Thank you for giving me the six children we’ve enjoyed raising so far. Thank you for my wonderful husband.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Wow, what a difference thinking about the present makes!

And then I took a few moments to focus on this precious little one.

It occurs to me that much of the emotional pain I experienced through three miscarriages was a direct result of giving the Future my heart.  As Screwtape describes, I’d placed my treasure in it. My excitement was wrapped up in my hopes and dreams for each child. How precious to hold him in my arms, to rock him to sleep, to watch my other children play with him on the floor. I imagined the family dynamics through the years, conjuring up all the love we would lavish on that child through his life. With the realization that those plans and dreams would never come to pass…in this world…came great sadness and loss.

How would my Heavenly Father want me to approach this pregnancy – and every other relationship and situation in my life? He would want me to keep my thoughts trained on the present, and on eternity. So from this moment, I will be grateful that I am privileged to enjoy this baby TODAY. If tomorrow comes, I will enjoy it then. Regardless, God-willing, we will all share eternity together.


Reading Assignment:  Chapter 21-26

Note:  While you’re reading along (and even if you can’t), make sure you check out this magnificent Radio Production of The Screwtape Letters by our own Paul McCusker. Excellent Production!

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do you ever get wrapped up in the Future?  Or in the past?  If so, how do you manage to regain your focus?

2.  Please comment on anything from this past week!

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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