Help! I’m Feeling Spiritually Dry.
There was an event in the life of Ignatius that has always struck me. When Ignatius of Loyola was in Spain at a place called Manresa, he spent much time fasting and praying and doing penances. Through doing these, he learned to overcome himself on his path to becoming a saint Through this process he would give to the Jesuits and to the Church the Spiritual exercises.
Yet, I am also struck that when Ignatius went to studies, he did not do mortifications. Moreover, when he was receiving insights and consolations during studies he would put them aside. He would concentrate on learning what he had to learn and would not allow anything to distract him.
It seems rigorous. For the longest time I had trouble understanding what the saint was doing. Why give up penances when they had such a good effect? Why give up consolations when they make us feel closer to God?
The missing link for me was filled in by another holy servant of God, Luisa Piccaretta, who pointed out to me the importance of doing the will of God. In this perspective, Ignatius at Manresa was called in the will of God to do all these penances and to pray for many hours daily.
But while at studies Ignatius was called by the Father to concentrate on what he was learning. Ignatius did what the Father was calling him to at each moment whether it was challenging or consoling.
Here, I think, is my first response of what to do when we are not feeling the consolation of God. Ignatian spirituality is very much aimed at discerning what is the will of God and then doing it. We are called to find out what God is desiring from us in this present moment, and then choosing it and doing it to the best of our ability.
Hence, even if we don’t feel God’s presence, we can still be internally comforted by the fact that we are doing what God has invited us to do: whether it is to wash the dishes, write an exam, or love someone who is very challenging to love.
The first step then when we are not feeling God’s consolation is to remind ourselves of what the Lord is calling us to do at this moment, and then do it generously out of love for God.
Here I think is something very profound and yet very much in line with all our common sense. I remember hearing a story of a husband who lovingly goes out at three a.m. to help his wife while she is nursing. The husband at the moment didn’t “feel like it” but in the moment did what he had to do because he loved his wife. Love here goes beyond feelings into doing what is truly good.
Naturally if we have an image of God as being oppressive like a dictator we might struggle with the idea of seeking the will of God. Perhaps this “will” is not going to be what I want. Or maybe we don’t trust that God is absolutely good and loving toward us.
Our faith and our experience hopefully will remind us that God is Love and His plan and His will for our lives is about love. At such time remember that even when we are not feeling his presence, this too has some purpose and some good for our lives- if we trust Him.
I think this is our response when we don’t feel connected to God and when we don’t feel His presence. We can ask ourselves, what is God calling me to do, and tell the Lord “Lord I accept this dryness out of love for you, and I accept this little task that you have entrusted to me. Help me to do it with grace and generosity for the glory of your name.”