We have discussed about how God would reveal His will to us. St. Ignatius speaks of three times that is suitable in making a good decision. The first one is a very intense and obvious revelation from the Lord where one cannot doubt it is the Lord and His will. The third time, is a time of tranquility where our soul is not moved by anything and as if the Lord leave us to our natural power to decide. In this third time, St. Ignatius suggested to use our intellect and ask the Lord to confirm it. How would the Lord confirm it? By the second time where much light is received through discernment of spirits when one experiencing consolation and desolation.
I found it necessary to put here again what St. Ignatius say about consolation and desolation:
The third: Of Spiritual Consolation. I call it consolation when some interior movement in the soul is caused, through which the soul comes to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord; and when it can in consequence love no created thing on the face of the earth in itself, but in the Creator of them all.
Likewise, when it sheds tears that move to love of its Lord, whether out of sorrow for one’s sins, or for the Passion of Christ our Lord, or because of other things directly connected with His service and praise.
Finally, I call consolation every increase of hope, faith and charity, and all interior joy which calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one’s soul, quieting it and giving it peace in its Creator and Lord.
The fourth: Of Spiritual Desolation. I call desolation all the contrary of the third rule, such as darkness of soul, disturbance in it, movement to things low and earthly, the unquiet of different agitations and temptations, moving to want of confidence, without hope, without love, when one finds oneself all lazy, tepid, sad, and as if separated from his Creator and Lord. Because, as consolation is contrary to desolation, in the same way the thoughts which come from consolation are contrary to the thoughts which come from desolation.
In this part of the article, however, we will deal mostly on desolation. Why is that so? Well, we simply follow St. Ignatius spiritual exercises. In His first week, St. Ignatius deals mostly on desolation. He believed that desolation occur most often for the beginners or those who are in the beginning state.
Anyway, let me share what kind of desolation I might experience. Well, most of the time for me it is anxiety, restlessness. I felt like I have to do it, otherwise things will go wrong. In other words, you notice, it is a lack of trust in the Lord. Sometimes also, I experience lack of hope, everything so dark, my future is so gloomy. I was so afraid to choose, because in either choices (or one of them), I cannot simply see my bright future. And my future seems to depend all on me. I forgot about God. Not that I didn’t think about God, no no. I prayed, and cried to God, it is just that I forgot that God is in control of my life. He holds my past, present, and future. But in times of desolation, I couldn’t see all this.
Another form of desolation that I also experience is this dryness, laziness to pray. I felt like prayer can be postpone, and I need more rest than praying. If I remember the times when I was so excited to pray, I was amazed how this laziness could come from. But all these are forms of desolation.
Now, the first thing for us to remember is that
desolation never comes from God
This is one thing we all seem to know, but when desolation comes, we tend to forget. Why do I say this? The reason is that when I experience desolation, I tend to think, “ah, maybe God is saying something to me”. For example, when I experiencing desolation in my working place, I felt lazy, no hope, everything is so gloomy, then we tend to think “Maybe God want me to change my job.” This is so not true. Desolation never comes from God. Desolation comes from the evil spirit.
St. Ignatius reminds us that just as in consolation the soul is guided by the good spirit, in desolation, the soul is guided by the evil spirit. So if you want to be guided by the evil spirit in your life, you may follow your instinct during desolation. But if you don’t want, then don’t follow any inspiration you get during desolation.
St. Ignatius gave this rule:
In times of desolation we should never make any change but remain firm and constant in the resolution which guided us the day before the desolation, or in the decision to which we adhered in the preceding consolation.
This simply says, if you are in desolation, don’t make any decision! How often that when we are in desolation either in school or in work, then we decided to look for another job? How often people when they are in desolation in their marriage life, decided to divorce or to be unfaithful? Desolation never comes from God, and we should not make any changes in our commitment.
In ministry also, many of us will experience desolation. And it is always good to remember that we should not change our commitment when we are experiencing desolation.
So what should we do?
Though in desolation we must never change our former resolutions, it will be very advantageous to intensify our activity against the desolation. We can insist more on prayer, upon meditation, and on much examination of ourselves. We can make an effort in a suitable way to do some penance.
This is what St. Ignatius suggested. In short, fight against it. Do the opposite! If in desolation you are so lazy to pray, than pray longer and pray more! If in desolation you are so lazy to serve God, then serve God more, do some penance, examine your conscience, etc.
I know that many of us find it rather impossible. In times when we are lazy to pray, you ask me to pray even more? How could that be? Fr. Thomas Green really gave a reasonable practical advice. If you are used to pray for 30 mins, in desolation, try to pray for 31 minutes. Hold on to it, don’t give up, pray and ask God’s grace.
Besides doing the opposites or fight against desolation, we should also increase our faith and trust in the Lord who seems to abandon us. This can be done in many ways, maybe one of the best way is to meditate on the scriptures or the lives of the saints. We can learn to say a little prayer. I recall watching a video of mother Teresa who taught one of the nuns this prayer using your five finger:
- in Your tender love
- for me
Maybe we can do the same 🙂
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