(Where we inject a little "Screwtape" into the mix...)
Larry was walking by the local coffee shop when he saw his friend Jacob sitting in the corner booth, his head in his hands. His friend looked awful. He hurried into the coffee shop and sat down opposite his friend.
"Jake? What's up man?"
Jake looked up, his eyes red, his face drawn, his hair looked like it had been run through by his hands a hundred times.
"Hey Larry. Want some coffee?" Jake said.
Larry looked close at his friend. "Dude, you look horrible. What happened?"
"I happened Larry. I happened all over my job."
It took a few minutes of probing but Larry got the whole story. Jake had been called on the carpet for violating a minor company policy but one the District Supervisor was now using to bury Jake. Now the company had him on paid administrative leave pending a further investigation.
"I guess I got caught up in the whole making money, doing what needed to be done for the company that I rationalized away several instances when I bent the rules. I honestly thought I'd be doing the company a favor by my actions; afterall, I never charged them for the overtime I just made my time sheets look good" Jake said with a sigh.
Larry sat quietly across from his friend. Jake continued.
"I was so jazzed when I got this job. Good pay. Good bennies. I loved the work I was doing. God sent this job at just the right time and looking back, I pissed it all away."
Larry nodded silently, letting his friend talk. He'd seen the change in behaviour in his friend over the last five years but never felt comfortable saying anything. After all, Jake seemed to have more knowledge of Christianity than he did but looking back, Larry could see Jake was just more vocal about his opinions.
"I got wrapped up in all the praise people were giving me about how good I was, how blessed I was in this job." Jake shook his head and looked down into his coffee cup. "I got a swelled head and pushed God right out."
Larry said, "Hey, it happens to the best of us at times."
Jake shook his head and said, "It happens to me alot. I can't blame it on the ADD. I can't blame it on my parents. I'm the one who is to blame. You see, I believed that once I became a Christian, God would take away all the bad stuff I was doing, you know, a 'new creation'. Instead, I find I'm having to battle just to make it through the day. My wants and desires aren't in line with His. The Bible becomes a blur of words I've read before. My prayers bounce off the ceiling and God is no where in sight when I cry out." Jake was starting to get angry. "I mean, come on! I read the Psalms. David cries out and is rescued. I read Paul, things work out for the good for him, not me! Jesus says to come and He'll give you rest but I'm still in turmoil!"
Jake's voice had risen and Larry looked nervously around the coffee shop. Surprisingly, no one noticed.
"I think you need to take some time and get alone with God..." Larry started.
"I've been alone with God and all I get is the same, guilt and depression!" Jake snapped. "I think you should probably go Larry, before I say something stupid and spoil our friendship."
Larry didn't know what to do and slowly rose from the table. "Dude, I'll pray for you. This isn't you. You know who's you are. You've just forgotten." With that, Larry walked out.
"Perfect!" Lucifer said as he read the report. "What else you got?"
Malatestes, Demon Third Class sneered and said, "That whispering campaign stuff you told us about at the last conference in Iraq? I've been using a lot of that with Jacob!"
"Excellent" Lucifer smiled. "Details, man, I need details!"
Malatestes explained how he subtly whispered while Jacob was reading his Bible how much the man wasn't measuring up to God's standards. How he subtly directed Jacob's thoughts to his upbringing, exposing some of the fallacies of modern religion and how man's interpretation of scripture was to be suspect. He played upon Jacob's fears that he wasn't a good enough husband and that his actions would be detrimental to his children. He even started pushing the man's son to question his father's faith while at the same time making Jacob question his own beliefs.
"I whispered, 'How do you know you're one of the elect? The chosen? A new creation when you still sin like that?'"
Lucifer giggled and rubbed his hands. "Beautiful!" he cried. "Wonderful!" "Using our enemy's words against one of His own! I love it!"
Mal snickered and said, "I have more."
"I pushed his despair buttons." He paused to let it sink in. Lucifer looked perplexed then his face broke into a grin.
"Did he? I mean...seriously?"
"Oh he did. Planned it all out too. Note to the wife and kids, out in the backyard with the .38. The whole ball of wax."
Malatestes made an awful face. "Gabriel showed up!"
"Augh!!!" Lucifer said, slamming his fist on the desk and rising to his feet. "Not Gabe! Damn it! I hate it when he does that!" Sitting back down he sighed and said, "What did he say?"
"Not so much what he said as what he allowed the man's mind to see. His wife and kids without a husband and father. The shame it would cause his family. The mess it would make of his kids lives. How it would be the ultimate lack of faith and the ultimate example of failure in Jacob's life."
Lucifer slumped in his chair and pouted. "He bought it didn't he." It wasn't a question.
Malatestes just nodded. "But no fear. It's a minor set back. I've been working on people in his office. Several are more than willing to, shall we say, stab him in the back? Kick him while he's down? Because he doesn't meet their standards? I'm pretty sure he'll lose his job in about three months. That's how long I plan on stretching this thing out!"
"Good. Let me know how it goes. Check back in, oh say...." Lucifer thumbed through his desk calendar. "Sometime in October. That should be good."
Malatestes saluted and disappeared in a poof of red and black smoke. Lucifer sat back and thought about his challenge and the subject he'd selected. He'd done exhaustive research on his target and he was sure he could make the man fall. His faith seemed fragile and with Malatestes pushing all the right buttons, he might actually win this one...