My Consolation and Desolation

Taken by Brownie Bear and uploaded on Flickr --- This window commemorates the dead of the Great War. The depiction of destruction and desolation either side of the figure in the middle makes the scrolled message 'Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory' strange to me.

“Why can’t I just catch a break?!” — “Why does all this happen to me?” — “Why does it seem that everything is harder for me than for everyone else.”

I don’t know about you, but for me statements like that have come extremely easy, they’re reflexes, kinda like gaging or puking.  I’ve reached a point in my life that even the small victories and blessing that occur in my world seem so minor when held up against the context of my current, somewhat seemingly pathetic existence.  At this moment things just feel desolate.  It’s a struggle to write, a struggle to find meaning or purpose, and really a struggle to just make it through a day.  It’s not that things are so much worse now than they used to be, in fact, very little has changed.  At one point, it just seemed like there was some kind of flow, motion, or movement behind me, like a boat out at sea with the wind in it’s sails, the boat is just along for the ride.  And now the wind has just disappeared, leaving the boat almost motionless in the middle of nowhere.  Even the easy things aren’t as easy as they used to be, and the hard things feel darn near impossible.  It feels like God, the strong force of my life that has been forever pushing me forward, has just disappeared and left me with nothing, making it feel like I’m barely moving, barely breathing, barely living; stuck, stranded, lonely, and far away from sweet relief.

My own story reminds me of St. Ignatious’ concepts of consolation and desolation.  He felt that all of mankind experience times of consolation and desolation.  Consolation consists of those times when we feel that mysterious force behind us like a wind in our sails, when we’re aware of God’s presence in our life and have no doubts that he’s right there, ordaining each step. Things seem to be moving and flowing, and we really get a sense that this life has a motion, a purpose, and a destination.  It’s like walking in a field in the middle of the afternoon when the sun is out and everything is illuminated, we feel safe, we know where we are and where we are going because we can see for miles in any direction.  We have no problem determining right and wrong because we have God acting as our own personal Jiminy Cricket, whispering in our ear.  During consolation, we still have issues and problems just like any other time, but they seem manageable and maybe even a little exciting.

But then there’s  this other thing called desolation.  And desolation is just the opposite, it includes those times when things seem dark, the force that was once thrusting us forward at high speeds has disappeared, and we feel stuck and abandoned.  We become very unsure of God’s presence and as a result become unsure of our own direction, every decision seems more difficult, even the litte ones.  Estranged and foresaken are the feelings that dominate the heart, leaving us feeling paralyzed at most and extremely exhausted at the very least.  It’s leads us to scream and yell, directing our attention to the dark abyss that seems to have replaced the life force that used to be behind us.

Ignatious eventually makes it clear, that these are our feelings, maybe our earthly realities, but our God is an ominpresent God.  He’s there, even when we’re feeling forsaken and abandoned, as we all feel at times, He never actually leaves.  Ignatious goes on to point out that the answers to true life, the road toward the abundant living we’ve all heard so much about is found amidst the times of desolation.  Strength, Patience, Bravery, Loyalty, Faith and True Love are all characteristics developed into a state of completion and perfection during the desolate and dark times.  It’s the man that still believes while in the dark and in the silence who has found perfect faith.  Lord, help me!  When I struggle, when I feel pain, when I see destruction and corruption, when I experience desolation, let me rejoice for the opportunity to have my faith perfected.

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

– James 1:2-4

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