Consolation and Desolation 2014-14
How many of us, including me, have had some or any periods of consolation and also desolation in our lives? I remember my cousin’s husband saying, “I have never had a depressing moment in my life!” Wow, what a lucky guy; but I did not believe him. He ended up with problem kidneys and was on dialysis and finally said, “I quit” and died after stopping the treatment. Did he get depressed or get into a period of desolation; don’t know.
This past year or so, I have been studying, with my Spiritual Director, St. Ignatius and the exercises (S.E.=Spiritual Exercises) Ignatius came up with during his life. Pastor Paul and I would key in on a “moment” that was part of the study, and some of them involved consolation and desolation. Allow me to quote some of his exercises, in the following.
Desolation, what is it?
Let me begin with the word desolation. Mr. Webster describes this as being lonely, with sorrow, grief or woe as a state of being. If allowed to continue, a condition of clinical depression can occur and this is an extreme living disorder that can rule. I somewhat arrived at this situational state many years ago after being in an auto accident and finding myself unable to walk and talk correctly and experiencing a rehabilitation stay in the hospital and rehab over 3-4 months.
The problem I had with desolation is the fact that it was ongoing and my mind could see no escape from the present. This is a period where hope disappears and only dejection and sorrow remain. It is a horrible way to live and my thoughts were not positive at that time. Fortunately this changed and slowly I became aware of thoughts that were good and I became better, not great, but better. Also, a therapist named “Jim” got me thinking that it was not “I”, but the accident that was causing me problems in life.
So, an event can create desolation, but what keeps it going? Ignatius blames the evil one, which I have written about before as being the Devil. He stated that the evil spirit goes after weak points, when we are most vulnerable. We are unprepared for this period; we are fragile and susceptible to the weakness of life. He states our tactics should include firmness in our dealing with the evil spirit. My note at this junction show I said, “Just say no!” Well, that is easy to say, but sometimes hard to do; believe me.
When I do get somewhat depressed, I now turn to God, instead of a guy named Jim. If I show signs of depression or desolation, my wife, turns to me and asks me, “Have you taken your problems to God lately?” I admit, I usually say “No!” and go into my man cave (actually my den, where my reclining chair is located), and start to pray to God. It helps almost always. If it does not, it is usually because I did not spend the time correctly or didn’t ask God about things he already knows about me at the time.
Call it what you want if you are a believer, but I say, or Ignatius states, “We will find that the good spirit (God) tends to give support, encouragement, and oftentimes even a certain delight in all our endeavors, S.E. #329)”. He further expounded on the fact that “the good spirit brings about ….. Consolation in order to strengthen and to speed the progress of our life in Christ”.
Conversely, the evil spirit “on the other hand arouses good feelings so that we might be drawn to focus our attention on wrong things, or to pursue a more selfish motivation, or to get our own way before all else. Quietly, and slowly, the change is brought about until the evil direction becomes set and clear.” (S.E. 329)
I think of the writer, C. S. Lewis and the book he wrote “ScrewTape Letters”, whereas the minions of the Devil are actively at work trying various ways to change their “clients” beliefs in a way that is contrary to God’s wishes. They do this and that, which is somewhat interesting to read, but in reality is somewhat true for the evil one to succeed in the quest of dominion of souls.
To realize that there are actions by factions, to change your mind and work against you is somewhat daunting. We want to be in control and accomplish things on our own, which is human nature to do so. But, when we are so overburdened with remorse, or sadness, the fact that we can reach out to God and ask for His help is so very reassuring to know.
What will he do? I really cannot answer that, because only God will be taking action and I cannot predict what will occur. I do know that He works in His timeline and in His own way. What we ask for is not exactly what we might get, and that is somewhat normal.
I asked God to help me recently and asked Him to do something. The end result was not what I expected but, in effect, He answered me in His way, which was better and had benefits beyond what I imagined. I could feel the “consolation”, could name it, and I experienced it.
You might ask, “How can God do the things He does, with so many people asking Him for help or answers?” I wondered about this in the past (long time ago) and even recently within the past number of years. It wasn’t until it came to me, just what was going on in my life and how my relationship with God the Father, His son Jesus Christ, and The Holy Spirit was working. It is amazing to know and I will share this opinion with you another time.
I leave you with these thoughts. Consolation is grace by God and Desolation is evil by the Devil working against you. I have to quote Ignatius again, “A time of consolation should provide the opportunity for a growth in true humility……. Acknowledge with gratitude the gifts we have received…. Take stock of how poorly we fare when such consolation is withdrawn…… If we are afflicted by desolation, we should take some consolation in knowing that God’s grace is always sufficient to follow the way of the Lord. (S.E. #324).