9.3 Consolation vs. Desolation. Keep Walking!

Listen to this!

Today’s Lectio Divina: 

God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, You find me quiet pools to drink from. True to Your word, You let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when You walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure. You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life. Psalm 23 (MsgB)

Ignatian Truth #9: Ignatian spirituality is all about Consolation vs. Desolation. God-awareness is all about anything, internal or external, that takes us toward God (consolation) vs. anything, internal or external, that takes us away from God (desolation).

So, let me ask you.

Today, as you are reading this, is your life in a season of consolation, or are you in the midst of a time of desolation?

It’s intriguing that when I’m asked that question, the first place I go is to look at my external situation. If times are rough, situations around me are intense, and/or my relationships with others are strained, I’m certain that I must be in that desert place called desolation. Or, if the opposite is true; my life is going well, money is flowing, my health is good, and my job is going well, then certainly, I must be in a time of consolation.

While it’s true that external circumstances do, many times, reflect the season we are in, the truth is that, from Ignatius’ perspective, the concepts of consolation and desolation actually run deeper than my life’s external circumstances. In other words, in Ignatian spirituality, I could find myself in the midst of a blessed situation, (i.e. lots of money, great job, success flowing) but in reality, I could actually be in desolation.

Why you ask?

Because, as we dig deeper into the externals of our lives, the real question we need to be asking is. “Where is my current external situation taking me internally?” In other words, if my external life, even as wonderful as it might seem, is actually drawing me away from God’s presence, in truth, I’m in desolation, whether I want to admit to it or not!

Got it?

So, I could actually find myself in the midst of a lot of terrible circumstances, things that I would certainly classify as desolation, but, if I’m actually being drawn closer to God through those externals, Ignatius might say that I’m experiencing consolation (being drawn closer to God) in the midst of a season of desolation, where my externals are difficult, at best.

Now then, let me re-phrase my question to you today.

Right now, are the externals of your life in desolation or consolation?

And now, regardless of your answer to that first question, let me ask you this…

Right now, where are the externals of your life (desolation or consolation) taking you?

Closer to God? (consolation)?


Away from God? (desolation)?

You see, King David, as he wrote his beautiful song, we call Psalm 23, reflects on this wonderful awareness that regardless of our current location in life; desolation (Death Valley) or consolation (lush meadows with quiet pools), we can find ourselves still content (consolation) because we are dwelling in the House of God.

So, as we close, let me, once again, rephrase my question to you…

Today, whether you find yourself in a season of desolation or consolation…where are you?

It’s my prayer that you allow the Spirit to bring you into consolation in whatever situation you find yourself today. For His name’s sake.

My prayer: Father God, allow me to mature into the place we find King David (in Psalm 23), where despite my externals (desolation vs. consolation), I can still be found in consolation (close to You), because indeed, I can do all this through You who gives me strength. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: Like a squirrel who stores up food for the winter in the midst of the harvest season, am I storing up good in my heart when I find myself in a season of external consolation? And, on the opposite side of life, am I asking the Holy Spirit for the gift of consolation even when I find myself in a season of external desolation and despair?

How are you experiencing God as you ponder on these Ignatian truths today? 

Over a period of twelve weeks (3 sessions per week), we will take this journey into Iggy’s Biggies, contemplating twelve foundational truths found within the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. We suggest you bookmark our blog series homepage to keep all the writings in one place for your future reference. Take note that each blog session begins with a short scripture reading. My suggestion is that you don’t hurry through, or skip the text, but treat it as a Lectio Divina reading where you slow down and sit a bit with God’s Word, allowing it to penetrate and influence you as you read.

If you’ve never journeyed through the Exercises, might I suggest that you find a qualified spiritual director and ask them to accompany you along the way? Here at The Contemplative Activist, we can offer a good number of highly qualified folks to do just that.

Oh, and if you enjoy what you’re reading here, we encourage you to share this page and our website, The Contemplative Activistwith your friends! 

Click here to go on to the next blog/podcast in this series…

3 thoughts on “9.3 Consolation vs. Desolation. Keep Walking!

  1. Pingback: 9.2 Consolation vs. Desolation. Now What? | The Contemplative Activist

  2. Thank you for that word this morning Marty! My wife and I, as you know from our conversation a couple of weeks ago, are in the middle of a very challenging time. We find ourselves experiencing great consolation in the midst of difficult situations. I woke in the middle of the night last night in terror of our financial situation. But I drew close to God and was able to finally sleep. This morning Diana had a song for me to listen to. It was Jen Johnson singing The Goodness of God. The chorus has the line, “your goodness is running after, running after me.” So timely, both your blog and the song! Thank you Lord.


    • Thanks Les for your encouragement. So glad the blog was timely! Just today I was studying Philippians 1 where Paul is tempted to throw in the towel (verses 22-26) but God gave him the grace to keep on keepin’ on. I was pondering on his words in 2nd Corinthians 12: 8-10 (NIV)…

      Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take (my affliction) away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

      May God’s amazing grace (and goodness) continue to see you guys through this wilderness! Keep us posted! May the Good Lord bless and keep you! mb


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