Desolation (January 24, 2012)

…Opening To…

It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us: it is the very sign of His presence. (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain)

…Listening In…

I have sunk into deep mud. My feet can’t touch the bottom! I have entered deep water; the flood has swept me up. I am tired of crying. My throat is hoarse. My eyes are exhausted with waiting for my God. (Psalm 69:2-3; context)

…Filling Up…

Usually, people want the bad news first, so we’ll begin with the emptiness of desolation. Desolation is the nuclear winter of the soul. Desolation makes the soul a wasteland – arid, parched, rendered uninhabitable by events in the life of the very person who must inhabit the internal desert.

Sometimes, we bring desolation on ourselves: a man cheats on his wife, and she doesn’t even catch him. He expects to feel the thrill of adventure, of subterfuge. Instead, he feels the pain of a broken promise. He doesn’t realize he is a moral person until he fails to live up to his own unexamined values. And his failure eats away at his soul.

Sometimes, external events bring desolation upon us: the pregnancy has been difficult, but the doctors have managed to stay positive. If she can hold on just a few more weeks…but the contractions start, and she delivers a tiny life. The infant’s underdeveloped lungs struggle for breath. He lives for four days, and her soul dies with him.

Sometimes, desolation happens not in these large events but in the accumulation of small frustrations and disappointments. They hired the other guy. The repair cost more than the estimate. Another D-minus. Chicken for dinner – again. Each frustration erodes the soil of the soul, nutrients leach out, and eventually only the wasteland remains.

In these times of desolation, we do not look for the presence of God because we think God can’t possibly be there. We abandon ourselves to despair, so we expect that God has abandoned us too. We may even stop believing in God, while paradoxically blaming God for our situations. When we are desolate, we don’t live: we merely subsist. And we fail to realize that our very ability to survive through the torment of despair is a manifestation of God’s awesome power and love.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you are near me even when I am far from you. Help me never to forget that, even when I can no longer see your presence. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, and wherever I am – whether in the garden or the wasteland – I pray that you help me see your presence in my life.

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