Have you ever said or prayed these words?

  • How can I get through this?
  • I am in crisis I don’t know what to do.
  • I have lost hope.
  • I have lost faith.

My time in Russia has been a time of great faith-building and a time of great faith-testing. I have been in a faith crisis a number of times and each time the Lord has shown me a way through it. I bless the Lord for this knowledge and want to share some with you because I know that there are many of you who are:

  • in a crisis,
  • coming out of a crisis and/or
  • about to go into a crisis

and have no idea what to do. Many times I have cried out these words: God help me!

My dear friends do you know that place of crisis?…

  • Where you sense you lost your faith.
  • When you sense there is no hope?
  • When you believe there is no way out of the darkness?

 

The spiritual name term for this place is ‘desolation.’ 

St. Ignatius in his renowned Spiritual Exercises writes that desolation is:

  • darkness of the soul,
  • turmoil of the mind,
  • inclination to low and earthly things,
  • restlessness
  • resulting from many disturbances and temptations which lead to
  • loss of faith,
  • loss of hope, and
  • loss of love.

It is also desolation when a soul finds itself:

  • completely apathetic,
  • sad,
  • and separated as it were, from its body.

 

Jesus wants to give us a way through the darkness. Not a way out of the darkness. Why? Because, Jesus knows sometimes the moments of spiritual suffering can be moments of great grace.

The deepest conversions in my life and the greatest closeness to Jesus happened when I was in the darkest time in my spiritual life.

Here are the two basic principles Jesus teaches us on how to live through a spiritual crisis 

  • Look back and see how God worked in your life. You have sometime in the past already experienced troubles. How did God work then? Your faith is in God, his ability and his willingness to help you. Looking back you see God is the same today as yesterday, he helped you then and he will help you now. The Bible says ‘Jesus is the same today, yesterday and forever’.
  • The other principle is you look ahead: what we believe about the future will determine how we live today.

 

In this regard let me give you an illustration. Two men were put in prison unfairly and it is a great suffering to feel the injustice from another person. Both men were to be in prison for 10 years. One man survives the other man did not. Why?

One man heard that his whole family had died and there was no one waiting for him. He died of hopelessness. The other man however, heard his family was waiting and praying for him. He lived each day in the hope of seeing them in the future. He survived because of what he believed was to be his future.

Do you see? There are two futures.

  • One road is a dead end.
  • The other road leads to life and for us Christians eternal life on high with Christ Jesus.

 

Do you believe in the future of your soul? Here you need to check where your hope is founded. If it is only in this life you will not withstand the fire of desolation. But if you have an eternal perspective you can live through the suffering and darkness with a difference. How you see your future will determine how you live right now.

We need to look back and we need to look forward as we learn to live through the spiritually hard times of faith. When you are in spiritual crisis know that God will not abandon you.

Now let me give you some basic principles that we can apply to our lives and which can help us while we are desolate. I know some of you won’t need them now but I assure you if you are not in crisis now someday you will be.


When in desolation

by Fr. Michael Shields

  1. When In Desolation, Stay The Course. If you have made a decision don’t change it. If you have made a resolution don’t change it. Trust God he will help you fulfill it.
  2. In Desolation, Remember God Is Really There. We Christians cannot endure testing by ourselves. God has given all Christians sufficient grace to endure desolation and not be destroyed.
  3. The Most Important Thing in confronting Desolation Is Patience. Patience is a virtue we need the most in a crisis. And it seems to leave quickly. Yet patience is the most necessary virtue for persisting in desolation.
  4. In Desolation and Spiritual Trials, think Long-Term. It is very difficult to say but it will pass. You are given a gift of persistence through your suffering.
  5. Starve Desolation with Increased Spirituality. It will be hard but pray more, cry out to God with all your strength. Be open to reading the bible more. Speak with a friend and pray with a friend don’t be alone in your crisis.  Paul’s advice from Ephesians 5:19-20 “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  6. Remember the times God worked in your life, the joys and deep faith you had.
  7. Know your Enemy and realise that Satan will tempt you to give up.
  8. Consider the reasons for your Desolation and Spiritual crisis. There are many reasons we find ourselves in a Spiritual crisis. Here are three:
    • We have sinned. And we need to repent.
    • We have not sinned but god gives us a time to test our faith.
    • We have not sinned but God gives us an invitation to grow spiritually and it happens only in deep spiritual suffering.
  9. Here it is good to remember that St Paul once prayed to be released from the thorn in the flesh before he realised that suffering was a deep grace and how much more he depended on God because of his weakness.
  10. Know that God will never abandon you. St Paul says ‘“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’4

This article can be found in Mirror 0215.