This weekend, I learned to apply a new word to the spiritual life. Thanks to David Benner in Desiring God’s Will (a book I could not recommend more highly), I became aware of the state of desolation. Actually, it is a state that I am familiar with, now I know what to call it.
Desolation is the downward spiral. Agitation and apprehension in our relationship with God and with others. A pre-occupation with the self and the negative impact our circumstances are having.
In short, desolation is the feeling we experience when we have disconnected from God. When our lives are off center and our eyes are turned elsewhere.
My experience of desolation is to get in a depressed funk and feel sorry for myself and to also get angry with others as I perceive they let me down.
Breaking connection with God drives me to the other alternative – my old self. Affirmation and reflected value. Desolation is my false self demanding more.
That is the root of desolation – developing a connection to, or hope in, the false identity rather than the Author of Hope. Because the false self is never satisfied, the result is the downward spiral – desolation.
The experience of desolation is a possibility in the desert.
The desert creates lack. The desert creates thirst.
The desert is intended to create in us a longing for God.
When we focus on the lack, rather than the one who can satisfy, we descend into our desolate state.
During the exodus, the Israelites repeatedly suffered desolation. When they took their eyes off the pillar of cloud or fire, they despaired. They turned on Moses and asked if he “had brought them to the desert to die”.
God was forgotten. They wanted to return to their former identity as Egyptian slaves.
Slaves of the false self.
Connecting to the Source of life is the antidote to desolation. Returning to whatever discipline allows you the experience of His presence. Preaching the truth to ourselves. Seeking community.
For me, that sense of consolation is found most profoundly in praying though a scripture while walking. That is where I find connection. A walk with a friend. I find God always joins me. Desolation disappears.
What are the characteristics of your own desolation experience? How do you fight back?