One of the difficulties of my disease is the unpredictability of it. I woke up last week and knew that things in my body had shifted. There is no real answer or reason as to why, it just did. The shift was into fatigue, general feeling lousy and irritability. This is one of the more difficult phases for me. I am not sure how long it will last; it could be days, weeks or months.
The irritability works like what the Desert Fathers would call a “demon”. I find that my spiritual practice becomes more obscure and difficult. Rather than the times of spiritual consolation it moves me into a form of spiritual desolation. I don’t feel spiritual, holy or like a good guy. I feel crappy. I find that these times are times of great challenge and growth, no matter how difficult they are.
These times of spiritual desolation help to deepen my understanding of God’s providence and presence in my life despite my lack of “feeling it”. I begin to realize that God’s activity in my life is not dependant on me or my ability, rather it is according to the very richness of God.
The other thing it helps me learn is that I need to continue with my spiritual practices despite the fact that they don’t seem to “work so well”. Being grounded in my spiritual practices helps to keep me going in the same direction. It is my continued “yes” to God’s overwhelming “yes” to me. I find that they help me to work with my irritability.
This season also helps me to realize my limits and need to slow down and rest. My body needs it and I need to learn the humility and obedience to realize my limitations. I also need to be aware that I need to spend more time on self-care and relying on others to help me. This too deepens my sense of humility and forces me to realize that I am not a “self-made man” or that I “can do it all by myself”. Also it reminds me of the need for healthy choices.
Since I have gone through several of these seasons I find that the spiritual desolation is not so overwhelming and full of fear like in times past. I don’t identify with these like I used to. I am gaining a new perspective and am growing in freedom. Therefore, while I don’t look forward to these I have found that these times deepen my spirituality. If you have had times of spiritual desolation, know that God is present and is holding you in presence.