I’ve been thinking about the desert and the promise land of the spirit. Both in Spiritual Desolation and Consolation, God is up to something good. Some seasons we rest and enjoy and some seasons we are challenged to grow. We may prefer consolation but it is most often in our desolation that we are forever changed.
Spiritual Desolation is a collection of moments, times, or an extended season when the presence of God seems to have vanished. It is to put it simply, the absence of Spiritual Consolation. Spiritual Consolation is a “grace (gift) for love and tears for God Himself” that the follower of Jesus experiences in various seasons. There are different reasons for the cause of this desert in our lives. Here’s a few that stand out in my mind:
- It can be caused by a tepidness. A desolation of the heart brought about by a neglect in our spiritual exercises and connective times to God. Indolence and neglect to one’s inner life is one reason God allows the removal of Spiritual Consolation.
- It is a test of love. An opportunity to show how generous we will be in praising and serving Him without the delights of past service and how God made our difficult work seem easy. God the Spirit uses your desert to draw the best out of you not through comfort but through trouble. The Holy Spirit is powerfully present during desolation but your awareness of His oversight is removed. It is impossible to grow without Spiritual Consolation but it is also true if not more so the case that without Spiritual Desolation, the wounded heart, from the perceived distance, would remain in the shallows. Desolation is used to bring an inner life shock at the depths of sinfulness and selfishness that still remain.
- It is to enlighten you of new truths and spiritual opportunities. It is to teach you a truthful, humble attitude and deep gratitude for the times of His tangible abiding presence during times of Spiritual Consolation. Spiritual Consolation rarely produces growth. There are necessary troubles that arrive in your spiritual journey. Sin, rebellion, personal failures are the raw materials used to create a deep and personal intimacy with God. “None of us go into spiritual maturity except by a wounding. Normally, a job, a fortune, a reputation has to be lost, a death has to be suffered, a house flooded or disease endured to move to a better place.” – Richard Rohr
The enemy’s greatest tactic during Spiritual Desolation is to cause you to DESPAIR OF GOD’S PERSONAL LOVE FOR YOU. The Holy Spirit wants to lead us through a despair of ourselves apart from Him, which offers humility as a gift to your inner life. You are beloved by God.
There is a reward for this desolation! You receive more of Him and the things that once held you down are no longer a part of you. It is for our correction, especially when experiencing such a time of sweet feelings toward God and forget that it is a gift from the Holy Spirit. Usually sweetness is mistaken for one’s own “spiritual maturity” level resulting in pride. If the Holy Spirit left that false assumption uncorrected an arrogance would insert itself. Also, there is a deep maturing regardless of your age that occurs in the desert. Your sin and redemption, personal dying and resurrection are the mercy of God at work in you.
It is like having your personal growth plan written by the Spirit Himself using the natural circumstances around you. The cost is great but the reward is so much better that you could ever imagine. God is working all things together for your good!