See the Unseen | Alex Falder | November 19, 2023
guidelines for discernment
If you're entrenched in sinful behavior, the enemy's normal tactic is simply to hold something attractive
in front of you, leading you to imagine how good it would feel to have it, hoping you'll take the bait.
The enemy's goal is to increase his grip and sink you deeper into destructive habits. The Holy Spirit
works differently, pricking your conscience and send of right and wrong.
If, on the other hand, you're making strong efforts to grow spiritually and serve the Lord, you can expect the reverse of Rule 1. The enemy's normal tactic is to harass you, make you sad, put up obstacles, and unsettle you with reasons that don't stand up – all to keep you from going forward. The Holy Spirit, however, very naturally gives you courage, strength, consolation, tears, spiritual momentum and peace, reducing and clearing away obstacles so that you can go forward.
Any interior movement that ignites your love for God is consolation. It's consolation when you no longer love any part of the created order for itself alone, but see God in all created things. Likewise, when you're moved to tears by sorrow for sin or what Jesus did for you or other things related to God's love, that too is consolation. Finally, consolation is every increase in faith, hope and love, as well as the inner joy we experience that focuses our hearts on spiritual matters, on spiritual well-being, bringing us rest and peace in our Creator and Lord.
Spiritual desolation is the exact opposite of what was described in Rule 3. It's characterized by interior darkness and unrest, being drawn to what's base, getting agitated in temptation, losing confidence, losing hope, and feeling cut off from love. It's being engulfed by spiritual inertia, a lack of enthusiasm, being stuck in sadness and feeling distant from your Lord and Creator.
When you find yourself in desolation, don't change your plans. Stick to what you previously determined was good and what you set out to do when you were in consolation. The Holy Spirit is guiding and speaking to you during consolation, but in desolation the enemy's voice is louder and will work against a good decision.
Although when in desolation it's a bad idea to change your plans, it's a good idea to aggressively change the way you respond to desolation. Spend more time in prayer and meditation. Take a spiritual inventory. Engage in a spiritual exercise that's addresses the situation.
Desolation is an opportunity for learning how to resist the enemy's attack and lean on the Lord in a new way. You may not feel the Lord's help, but it's still there. The spiritual fervor, abundant love and intense grace that used to carry you are gone – as if God has taken them away! – and it may feel like you're doing all the work, but there's still enough grace for you to move forward spiritually.
Work on being patient in desolation. Patience will ease the difficulties. Remember, too, that consolation will eventually come, especially as do your part to resist desolation. (See Rule 6)
Desolation comes for three different reasons. First, it can occur when you're passive or negligent with regard to pursuing life with God. Second, it can come as a part of God's plan to grow you, so that you learn to extend yourself to love and serve God without the consolation and kind of grace you normally rely on. Third, God can use it to help you realize better that the deeper devotion, intense love, sweet emotions and consolation you desire isn't something you yourself can produce. You come to realize that consolation is God's gift to you, and not something you can claim for yourself.
When you're in consolation, spend some time thinking about how you can respond better the next time you're in desolation, drawing on the strength of your present consolation.
When in consolation, stay humble. Remember how weak you feel in desolation, how unable your are to access the grace and consolation you currently enjoy. When in desolation, believe that God's grace, as meager as it seems in the moment, is more than enough to resist your darkest struggles as you take strength in your Creator and Lord.
The enemy is weak in the face of strength and strong in the face of weakness. Consequently, be persistent in your spiritual practices, confront the enemy's temptations firmly and directly, and do the exact opposite of what's proposed. The enemy will then vanish, and temptation will drop away. But if you lose heart and cave in to a temptation, you'll feel the redoubled force of the enemy's malice as he tried to take you completely under.
People having affairs desperately want to keep everything secret. They know that if their actions came to light, if that information were made public, everything would unravel. Likewise, the enemy wants you to keep quiet about your own temptations and fantasies. Make them public instead. Confess them to a spiritual person so they can't be secretly nurtured and acted on.
The enemy acts like the leader of army intent on subduing and plundering a city. He'll explore every fortification and defense, trying to identify the weakest point in order to attack it. Likewise, the enemy examines us, looking to attack the most underdeveloped virtue (e.g., faith, hope, love, courage, self-control, justice, prudence / wisdom), the very area where we most need God's help.
Explore how biblical authors use dragon imagery to describe
the forces that pull creation into disorder and death.