Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence ~ Paul Simon
There are two terms you should know that the ancient Christian writers gave us: consolation and desolation.
Consolation is the felt presence of God. Consolation is that period in your Christian life when you’re on cloud nine. It’s kind of like when you first became a Christian, and everything seems new and everything seems fresh. Every time you read the Bible, you feel like God is speaking to you. Every time you pray you feel His love and presence, and every time you pray something happens. Every time you sing a song you weep. You sneeze and someone says, “God bless you,” and you say something like, “I am blessed indeed.” (This is the most obnoxious time in your Christian life.)
Desolation is the felt absence of God. This is when you do not see God working in your heart. This is when you are praying and praying and praying…and no answers. This is when you’re reading and reading and reading…and getting nothing out of it. It is completely bone dry. These are desert times. These are winter times. This is when God is painfully absent.
Honestly, it is an arrogant belief in the minds of immature believers that consolation and desolation are up to me. It’s about what I’m doing. So if I’m experiencing consolation, the felt presence of God, I must be doing something right. I’m praying the right prayers, I’m singing the right songs, I’m reading the Bible in the right way, I’m going to the right church, I’m in the right programs. I must be doing something right.
Therefore conversely, if I’m experiencing desolation, the felt absence of God, I must be doing something wrong. I’m not praying enough, I’m not reading enough, I don’t have enough faith, and I’m making the wrong choices. God is punishing me.
The ancients said, “What if consolation and desolation aren’t so much about what you do and what you’re doing, but it’s more about what God is doing? What if consolation and desolation are both intentional moves of God in your life?”
The writer Thomas Merton said, “God, who is everywhere, never leaves us, yet sometimes He seems to be present and sometimes absent, and if we do not know Him well, we do not realize that He may be more present to us when He’s absent than when He’s present.” Or to put it another way, God may be most powerfully present when he seems most conspicuously absent.
So, if you feel as if God is ten million light-years away remember—it is a feeling. And as a friend of mine says, “Feelings are damn liars.”
When God feels absent from you, just smile and say, “Hello darkness, my old friend. “