The faith chronicles

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Sadness vs. sorrow

Making a Decisive Decision to Change

(God’s Armor, Mother Nadine, Intercessors of the Lamb)

A point of discernment is that once we get the light and make a decision, the temptation will come from the enemy to change that decision. This temptation can come in many different ways and will often come when things get pretty stormy. It can come when it doesn’t look like we made a good decision because all of a sudden, things aren’t going right or going according to how we think they should be going. St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, cautions us here, “In time of desolation we should never make any change, but remain firm and constant” (The Spiritual Exercises, 318). Never, never turn the ship around in the middle of the storm. We are to never change our discernment while it’s stormy. When we are at peace, when we are calm within ourselves, we may find then that we need to change course. We may find it wasn’t the best discernment and that we need to re-discern because the enemy is involved somewhere, and it’s not bearing good fruit. Don’t be afraid to make that change and re-discern. When there’s peace within us again, nine times out ten we will know that we’re right on course. We would not have wanted to change our course in the storm only to find we were on the right track initially.

For example, if we are angry, satan would like us to call up that person we are angry with right then and there to get this talked about. This is not a good time because we are not at peace. There is a justified anger that comes from the Holy Spirit; it’s a controlled anger. If it’s our own emotional anger, we may not have the control, and then we may strike out, causing hurt and further division. Many things could happen when we are getting into uncharted waters during the storm. So we must be careful of what we say and how we move, especially when we don’t have peace. We always have to wait until we can shift back into neutral, into peace. We need the breastplate of righteousness firmly in place. Then the fruit will always be peace. We wait for that little peace branch to come back. We wait for the Dove to bring it back into our hearts. We don’t want to get into enemy territory.

There are a few little guidelines about consolation and desolation that are helpful to know because they are tools of God, but they can also be used by the enemy. Desolation is always from the enemy, and its effect will always take us further away from God. Consolation will always bring us closer to God.

Sometimes we recognize desolation when we’re really despondent, but we need to spot it before we get dragged to the bottom. Here are some manifestations of desolation: negativity, discouragement, self-pity, anxiety, turmoil, restlessness, impatience, tepidity, and complaining. Negative feelings are dangerous; they are not of God and can lead to deep desolation. These are not of God, and we need to come against them.

Discouragement is another manifestation of desolation and will draw us to the belief that maybe God doesn’t love us or that God has abandoned us. We have to be careful here. It can lead to self-pity because in desolation all of a sudden the focus changes to myself. We are in dangerous spiritual waters when this happens. We need to focus totally on the Lord. When we start to focus on ourselves, self-pity can come and bring sadness with it. St. Teresa of Avila used to say “God deliver me from frowning saints”. Sadness is not of God, so if we recognize these things happening within ourselves, we know that the enemy is working.

The enemy can use good things to destroy us. He can use our devotions and pious practices. I’ve seen people at prayer. It looks good, but if we speak to them or disturb them in any way, they become very upset. Look at the fruit. For heaven’s sake, don’t sit in their church pew! We can see spirits are working here, using good people who are doing what we would say are good things.

Fear is also one of satan’s main tools. When we’re afraid, we’re not going to focus on the Lord. We lose our peace, get anxious, can become angry, upset, and unkind. The bottom line is that we’re going to violate charity, the commandment of Jesus to love one another as He has loved us.

All of this is opposed to the personality of the Lamb. The Lamb is meek, is humble, is gentle. Jesus is everything satan is not; they are totally opposite. So we need to fight against this, particularly if we have developed habits. It takes time to develop a habit, good or bad. As we become aware of our bad habits, with the grace of God, we can move very easily into developing good habits. It really doesn’t take that long to develop good habits once we become aware of it, examine our motives and our actions, and decide to change. We have to take a look ar ourselves, as well, to see why we are acting or reacting the way that we are.

Sadness and unrest come from the enemy. Remember the rich young man? “He went away sad, for he had many possessions” (Mk. 10:22). He was saddened. He wasn’t ready to leave his earthly treasures behind. Sorrow and sadness are not the same thing. We can see the difference when we look at the fruit or the results from a particular attitude or situation. Jesus said “You can tell a tree by its fruit” (Mt. 7:20). Sadness will lead us into depression and self-pity; these are not of God.

On the other hand, sorrow is healthy and produces deeper love and understanding. It causes spiritual growth and calls us to action. Jesus said “My heart is filled with sorrow to the point of death” (Mk. 14:34). The heart of Jesus sorrowed, and ours will, too, if we remain with the heart of Jesus. We have to allow for grieving time, for that pain. There are a lot of abortions, the loss of precious babies. There is a lot of sorrow over the things going on in Rwanda. Sorrow is not of the enemy, for it produces good fruit. Sorrow is of God. Sorrow and joy live side by side in the soul. There is no conflict there. If we watch the fruit, we’ll be able to tell.

A thought can also be known by its fruit. What kind of fruit is this thought producing within us? Then we can tell pretty much who is behind this partuclar thought. We have to watch carefully over our thought life. If we fell some sadness or unrest about a decision we have made, feel free to re-discern it. It’s okay to make a mistake. We are human and are limited, so we’re going to make a lot of mistakes. But don’t deny the mistakes or pretend that they’re not there, for to build one mistake upon another would be foolish. Rather, we need to go back and re-discern our thoughts and decisions right away and tell the Lord about our mistakes. It’s okay. This is humility and it’s dealing with truth. Whenever we walk in truth, we walk in freedom. Satan cannot touch us when we’re in that freedom and light.

Once again we go back to the image of the child because a child is free. Children are not perfect in the sense of doing perfect things. The spirit of perfection that many of us have is not of God. God alone is the perfect One. Children are imperfect. They really don’t do anything well; they don’t do everything right. They’re little. They do the best they can. That’s all God asks of us: that we do the best we can, but it isn’t going to be perfect. We’re going to fall into the mud puddles. We’re going to disobey, but when this happens with our own children, we don’t love them any less. No, we put them in the bath tub, clean them up, and discipline them “Don’t do this again”. But we don’t stop loving them. God never stops loving us. He’s calling us to this union. This is important for prayer warriors more than ever before: we must exchange our heart for His heart, we must move in His perfect will. Satan cannot break through and attack us when we’re in that kind of union.

So don’t hide from the Lord. Whatever we do, don’t hide from the Lord. Always go back to Genesis 3 to see the personality of satan and his tactics. It’s all there. Adam and Eve hid. They hid, and our all-knowing, all-loving God said, “Where are you?” (Gn3:9). We have to remember that if we keep hiding, we’re not going to know ourselves or who we are. So never hide from the Lord. We may have many mechanisms for running and for hiding: busyness, talking on the phone a lot, watching TV, reading good books, whatever; anything to avoid prayer, anything to avoid that face to face dialogue meeting with the Lord. We know what are own personal ways of running and hiding. We have all sorts of ways of avoiding Him. So we must be careful that we’re not running or hiding from the Lord.

God works slowly, always respecting the dignity of the person. He loves us. He desires that we remain pure in Him. He wants us to make precious care of our heart. He wants us to belong only to Him. This is our area of greatest protection: our unity with the Father. So “stand fast, with… righteousness as your breastplate” Eph 6:14 for the Lord desires to work through us. We have already been given so many weapons to protect us and help us to stand fast!

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