Making Choices in Consolation or Desolation
Monday January 31, 2022
Fourth Week of Ordinary Time
by Fr. David M. Knight
2Samuel 15:13 to 16:13: When David was fleeing from the revolt of his son Absalom, he was too depressed even to react against Shimei, who was cursing him. When David returned victorious he felt too good to punish him: “Shall anyone be put to death in Israel this day?” But later, when he was dying, he told his son Solomon to “bring Shimei’s gray head down with blood to Sheol.”
Three different moods; three different choices. This teaches us to be aware of what we are aware of.
When David was only aware of betrayal and defeat, he accepted Shimei’s insults as part of the package. When he was completely caught up in his triumph, he could forgive them. But when he was aware his end was approaching, he began thinking of unfinished business. Because he did not keep himself aware of his moods and allow for them, they made him generous or lethal.
A classic swing in the spiritual life is between “consolation” and “desolation.” In consolation we are very aware of the truths of faith, of how good and reliable they are, and of the promises and power that accompany the gift of divine life. We feel joy and peace. In consolation it is easy to serve God. Our awareness puts wind in our sails.
In desolation, all that light is lacking. The truths of faith seem far away and obscure, lacking in credibility and power to motivate. The hard part is that, even if we deliberately remember them and call them into consciousness, they just don’t mean anything. Leave us cold. That is when we become aware that we have a free will, and that how we use it is ultimately all that counts in our relationship with God. And with others.
Feelings are not free. Choices are. Feelings have no moral value, good or bad. They may tell us some things about ourselves, but not whether we love God or not. Love is a choice that reveals itself in commitment. If we are trying to live by love, we do love, regardless of how we feel about it. If we aren’t trying to do what love calls for, we are not loving, no matter how much devotion we feel. It is often hard to keep ourselves aware of this, but essential.
God allows “desolation” to make us aware of what comes from us and what from him. We can be very faithful to God when he gives us good feelings. But often when he stops, we stop, which tells us where the power was coming from. When, however, we manage to keep choosing to persevere in the good things we were doing, we discover two things: that our feelings are not our real selves; and that even to keep making good free choices we need divine help. This makes us more aware; of the gift of God’s divine life in us. That is when we say, “Lord, rise up and save me.”
Mark 5:1-20: The Gerasenes were only aware of the fear they felt and the pigs they lost. It pays to look further.
Initiative: Learn to make yourself aware of gifts you are forgetting about.
 2Samuel 19:22; 1Kings 2:9.
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry