Recently, a good friend and I were talking about emotions and how they affect our lives. He shared some thoughts from St. Ignatius of Loyola.
“Saint Ignatius of Loyola 1491-1556 was a Spanish Basque priest and theologian, who founded the religious order called the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).” He spoke about thoughts and emotions in His third person autobiography “From experience he knew that some thoughts left him sad while others made him happy, and little by little he came to perceive the different spirits that were moving him; one coming from the devil, the other coming from God.”
This discovery has been described by different people in different ways. One source I found very helpful was an article discussing Ignatius’s thoughts: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/making-good-decisions/discernment-of-spirits/introduction-to-discernment-of-spirits
“The feelings stirred up by good and evil spirits are called “consolation” and “desolation” in the language of Ignatian spirituality.
Spiritual consolation is an experience of being so on fire with God’s love that we feel impelled to praise, love, and serve God and help others as best as we can. Spiritual consolation encourages and facilitates a deep sense of gratitude for God’s faithfulness, mercy, and companionship in our life. In consolation, we feel more alive and connected to others.
Spiritual desolation, in contrast, is an experience of the soul in heavy darkness or turmoil. We are assaulted by all sorts of doubts, bombarded by temptations, and mired in self-preoccupations. We are excessively restless and anxious and feel cut off from others. Such feelings, in Ignatius’s words, “move one toward lack of faith and leave one without hope and without love.”
As I have pondered this, I have found this description of desolation and consolation very helpful for my own processing of feelings. I have often described to people when I am struggling in different circumstances and situations that the greater struggle is with the emotions and feelings I am having rather than my actual thoughts (although the thoughts are always attached to emotions I have).
I will admit that I have more of a melancholy personality. I don’t see that as all negative. There is often a battle to not be led by, overly influenced by, or controlled by EMOTIONS. Yet, I find that I am able to overcome obstacles to obedience by strong feelings of love for the Lord and for people.
I see the difference of feelings and thoughts of desolation. Hopelessness, anxiety, abandonment, rejection, fear, etc. are all feelings/thoughts that make sick our souls and lead to spiritual death. Sometimes, I can attribute these negative feelings to evil spirits. It is certainly the enemy who wants to accuse us and make us believe his lies. At other times I believe it is just our unenlightened human thoughts that are not renewed by God’s truth.
In contrast I have seen the Holy Spirit, the only true Spirit of Consolation, bring enlightenment of the truth and encouragement to my soul. He ministers to us that we are not without hope of salvation in Jesus. He highlights that Jesus is a loving Shepherd to guide and direct us, and give us hope for a future in Him. We need not fear or be anxious about anything because He cares for our needs, guides us into all truth, and comforts us. We are not abandoned or rejected because for those who know Him, we have been accepted into His presence, adopted as sons, and prepared to be a bride for the King of all kings.
These are my conclusions as I have been meditating on desolation and consolation. I want to reject the feelings of desolation that the enemy would use to lie to me and cause me to miss the mark.
I also want to embrace the Holy Spirit, the spirit of consolation; I want to be more committed to the word which will ground me in the truth about who God is and how He sees me. I want to stand ever more firmly against the lies of the enemy and believe the truth, having my mind and subsequently my emotions transformed. I look forward to the consolation that God will bring to my soul and the hope in the midst of any darkness I face.
I pray for all those reading this that you would have the ministry of the Holy Spirit in your lives, drawing strength and truth from His majesty and presence.
Romans 12:2 NKJV
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
John 16:13 NKJV
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
John 14:16-18 NKJV
16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
Romans 15: 15-17 NKJV
15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
Matthew or Julie Wine