The Times Of Consolation

In the 17th century, St. Ignatius of Loyola offered up this bit of wisdom that I think absolutely still preaches all these centuries after he wrote it:  

In a time of desolation do not make a life-changing decision and do not go back on a decision made during a time of consolation.  Remember the times of consolation. 

In other words, when things have fallen apart and you think the world is about to end, don't do anything rash or radical just to alleviate your discomfort.  Decisions made in the haste of those uncomfortable moments usually mean we'll have plenty of time to repent of them later.  

I've heard that same advice a hundred times in my life in various forms and from a wide variety of people.  Maybe you have, too.  

In contrast, the other side of that quote is equally important:  Don't start second-guessing a decision or a direction you made when you were calm, clear, at peace, and feeling sure about it.  

Ignatius exhorts that we must instead remember the moments of "consolation" when we were at peace and our heart was full of hope as we anticipated which direction we were going to take or the decisions we made to head there.  

This is easier said than done, as most of us well know.  Second-guessing our decisions during times of trial and tribulation is often the action most of us choose to take, despite how we made them in the first place. 

The Irish poet Padraig O'Tuama wrote this amazing stanza that sums up the conflicts that we feel in the moments of disquiet and disequilibrium when we aren't sure what to do or how to feel about our situation or direction: 

Don't ignore whatever pain is blooming
like a flower that you never planted. 
Occupy your hands with kindness. 
Remember you can see, even though this blindness 
is remarkable. 

That last line is so powerful to me.  

It speaks of what it means to trust that whatever good work God has begun in us, will be completed in God's time and by the power of the Spirit which is in us, through us, and all around us.  

Even when it is hard for us to see how that might happen. 

We shouldn't ignore the difficulty of our desolate moments, but we also need to know that they won't last forever.  Better to get through the difficult bit, and then evaluate, rather than charge off in what could be the wrong direction just to avoid temporary pain. 

So be patient in those moments of discomfort, and recall the times of decision when your faith lifted you up---when you knew that even though you couldn't see the end of the road, at least you were chasing after Jesus.  

Remember the "times of consolation," and be at peace even though it may be difficult to do so.  God is with you in those moments as sure as God was with you when the world seemed right, and you were confident about your next steps. 

What will happen over time is that you learn to trust God's provision, purpose, and power even when you are at your lowest, even when you are doubting yourself, and wondering if you made mistakes.   

Your next move at that point won't be a knee-jerk reaction, it will be a decision made with the kind of confidence and inner peace that only comes when we fully rely on God's love, grace, and mercy for us above all else.  

May it be so and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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