As we learn to live in the way of Jesus, we must learn to discern Jesus’ voice and pay attention to his Spirit within us. But, discernment takes practice. In Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, Ignatius suggests one method of learning discernment using the concepts of consolation and desolation. Essentially, he believes the direction our life is taking us is either toward God (consolation) or away from him (desolation).

In a state of desolation we turn in on ourselves, cut ourselves off from community, are drained of energy, or spiral into negative feelings. Often in desolation our present decision takes over our whole consciousness and clouds our vision for the future.

In a state of consolation we turn outward and beyond ourselves, bond more closely with community, are uplifted, and can see the joys and sorrows of other people. Often in consolation our present decision generates new energy, inspiration, ideas, and shows us where God is active in our lives.

1. In what decision would you like greater discernment?
2. Allow yourself to feel what you feel about this decision. Try imagining yourself experiencing the outcomes if you took action on this decision.
3. Are you in a state of desolation or consolation?
4. If in desolation, tell God how you feel and ask for help. Seek out companionship. Don’t go back on decisions you made in consolation. Turn your attention toward someone who needs your help.
5. If in consolation, tell God how you feel and thank him. Store this moment in your memory and return to it when things get tough. Let the surplus fuel the things you don’t like doing and do them.

By Yvonne Biel

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