Genuine hardship is an essential part of the work of maturity in the Christian life. And one of the most damaging fallacies of pop-Christianity is that experiences of distance from God, isolation and aridity are signs of regression (or as my tradition so often refers to them: “back-sliding”).
One need look no further than to Jesus’s own life in which there were moments of great emotional intimacy with God and sense of direction in ministry (e.g., the transfiguration), and deep emptiness and feelings of complete abandonment (e.g., garden of Gathsemene). In both instances, Jesus was in exact alignment with the will of God, and yet his emotional experience was very different. So it is with us.
In this episode, we continue our study of discernment (learning to hear God’s voice in our life) with a look at two equally essential categories of experience, what Ignatius called “consolation” and “desolation.” Both are inescapable dimensions of growth, and both can be signs of trouble as well! We will learn how to tell the difference between true and false consolations and constructive and destructive desolation.
All this builds to a broad vision of growth that resembles what a mentor of mine refers to as “the upward spiral.” Transformation (or, technically, “sanctification”) does not happen in an instant. Rather, we make slow progress back towards our true identity (the person God created us to be). Just as sin leads us into the downward spiral of destruction, so grace allows us to reverse the course, and travel back home. The journey is long and the progress, slow. But as we understand the process and discern God’s leading, we gain confidence in our efforts and can see that we are taking on the likeness of Christ!
In other news, as I mentioned in the intro, I am working hard – especially amidst the political and social turmoil of recent days – to increase my presence on social media. I am trying to offer my most constructive thoughts as to how we – as followers of Jesus – stand up to wrongs, without ultimately adding to sin ourselves. (We must never forget that politics and politicians are not the enemy – sin is! To the degree that humans are agents of sin, they must be confronted and stopped. But the means by which we do so must be in accordance with manner of Jesus. We are never to become “Christian Utilitarians” – as if such a thing could exist.)
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Hang in there. Pray short and often. And remember: love is the name of the game! (If others seem to not understand the rules or how to score points, don’t let yourself get confused. Play your game and stick with it!)
Much love to you all,