9.2 Consolation vs. Desolation. Now What?

Listen to this!

Today’s Lectio Divina: 

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows— light! Sunbursts of light! Isaiah 9: 2 (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).


When it comes to the issues of consolation vs. desolation, I must warn you. If you think you might escape the pains of desolation in this lifetime, I must sadly remind you of the words of Jesus of Nazareth…

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16: 33 (NIV)

So, as we journey with Jesus through life, it’s not a question of if you and I will experience the lows of desolation and the highs of consolation, but simply when!

You see, as earth-dwellers, our lot in life is strangely reminiscent of the story of our ancient brothers and sisters who lived in Isaiah’s time. Without a doubt, we are all “people who walk in darkness,” but we have now seen a “great light.” Jesus of Nazareth has come to bring “sunbursts of light” to people such as us who “live in a land of deep shadows.”

So, as I see it, in order to be better prepared for our journey into both desolation and consolation, allow me to offer some great advice from Margaret Silf. From her book on Ignatian Spirituality, The Inner Compass, look at these excellent pointers on how you and I might best respond when we find ourselves in a season of desolation…or consolation…

In Desolation:

  1. Tell God how you feel and ask for help.
  2. Seek out companionship.
  3. Don’t go back on decisions you made in consolation.
  4. Stand still and remember your inner map.
  5. Recall a time of consolation and go back to it with your imagination.
  6. Look for someone who needs your help and turn your attention toward them.
  7. Go back to #1.

In Consolation:

  1. Tell God how you feel and thank Him.
  2. Store this moment in your memory to return to when things get tough.
  3. Add this experience to your life map.
  4. Use the energy you feel to further your deepest desires.
  5. Let the surplus energy fuel the things you don’t like doing and do them.
  6. Go back to #1.

Keep in mind that your journey in times of desolation (or consolation) are not puzzles that will be easily solved or resolved through our human initiative alone, but in fact, the Holy Spirit can lead you and guide you along the way as you do your part while God does His. A willingness to allow God to be God must always accompany your actions but know that every saint who has gone before you has experienced the joys of consolation and the sadness of desolation. The key thing to remember, regardless, is to keep walking with Jesus, as best you know how.

More on that, next time.

My prayer: Jesus, I don’t like living here in “a land of deep shadows,” but, praise God, You have broken through that darkness and offer us “sunbursts of light” along the way. In the process, God, I know that my life journey will contain both seasons of desolation and times of consolation. While I’d prefer only the good, thank You for providing tools of spiritual discipline that I can practice regardless of where I am on the journey. Holy Spirit, empower me as I do my part. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: What practical steps am I taking to fully cooperate with God when I find myself in a season of desolation (or consolation)? Am I doing my part and am I allowing God to do His? Am I trusting that God is in the midst of all things, despite how my emotions or feelings are responding?

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…

1 thought on “9.2 Consolation vs. Desolation. Now What?

  1. Pingback: 9.1 Consolation vs. Desolation. Light vs. Dark. | The Contemplative Activist

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.