“A deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him…” – Gn. 15: 12

Saint Ignatius of Loyola taught much about consolation and desolation in the Spiritual Exercises. To put it simply, consolation can be considered an “inner experience of love,” while desolation is “inner darkness and turmoil.” Even though I’ve heard today’s first reading from Genesis numerous times, I honestly never noticed that a “deep, terrifying darkness enveloped” Abraham. It sounds a lot like Abraham was experiencing an extreme moment of desolation, as Saint Ignatius described.

We will all experience times of desolation in our lives, when matters seem so bleak and hopeless. We will all experience moments of spiritual dryness. Sometimes, like Abraham, these moments will come as we are doing what we think God has called us to do, awaiting direction for the next step. We might even feel especially close to the Lord, when suddenly, unexpectedly we are struck down and left blindsided.

What shall we do in these moments? While Saint Ignatius has some great advice about this, perhaps one additional, simple remedy would be to remember Abraham. It was on this evening of terrifying darkness and desolation, that God made a covenant with him. God continues to act, even if we are temporarily paralyzed with fear. Perhaps it can comfort us knowing that God is not far-off, that God has plans and promises for our lives. We are an integral part of God’s story, just as Abraham was. Additionally, we are in good company with a whole history of beloved patriarchs and Saints who experienced desolation throughout their lives.

So if today, or any day during this Lent, you experience moments of desolation, take heart! Remember Abraham and continue to wait on the Lord. Remember that our God is good, loving, caring, and not far-off.

Lord of all consolation, help us to always seek you. Give us strength and courage in times of desolation. Amen.

Patty Hussey