Allowing God to Work Through Ignatian Contemplation

crying woman - photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels

In his book, The Ignatian Adventure, Kevin O’Brien, SJ, says that contemplation, in the Ignatian sense, “is more about feeling than thinking. Contemplation often stirs the emotions and inspires deep, God-given desires…we rely on our imaginations to place ourselves in a setting from the Gospels or in a scene proposed by Ignatius.” In a recent experience of Ignatian contemplation, my emotions were so stirred up that I couldn’t find words to articulate them. I was imagining sitting beside Jesus, and I wanted to talk with him but was overcome by emotion. When I looked over at him, my eyes welled with tears. It came as a surprise, and I felt embarrassed and ashamed because I have so much to be grateful for and really wanted to feel gratitude.

As the tears turned to sobs, what I was feeling was definitely not gratitude. I judged myself for not having the “correct” feelings. Jesus, however, continued to look at me—and not in the way that my imperfect human nature might have expected that he would. He was not judging me. In fact, I’m pretty sure that what I saw in his eyes was the same look that Mark captured when he wrote about Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (10:21). Jesus chose to love the man where he was, not judging him and not forcing change before the man was ready for it. And that day, Jesus met me where I was, and looking at me, he loved me.

His gaze was comforting—and also challenging. It held an invitation to dig deeper. I wondered what it was that was bothering me so much. After sifting through a whole litany of concerns, I unearthed a recent natural disaster that had impacted our family. It took more than half a year to recover from and involved a displacement from our home as it was being repaired. I uncovered my fears that a similar event might happen in the future. Finally, the phrase “act of God” came to mind, and with that I realized I had reached the pith.

I turned to Jesus and blurted out, Why? Why would you allow that to happen to us?

Now his eyes were welling with tears, and he pulled me close. Our tears poured down.

In that place of prayer, there were no pretenses. The temptation that Jesus wouldn’t love me if I felt a negative feeling or if I brought up topics that I thought might seem ungrateful, uncomfortable, or challenging faded away. He saw me right where I was, for all that I was and was not, and he stayed with me and loved me. And I saw him in his 40 days in the desert and all that he would suffer, including that moment when he would ask, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Deep in my being, I realized that we are never alone in our suffering.

To get to that spot, I had to open my whole self prayerfully, including my imagination and my memories, and trust that God could work within my vulnerability. I asked for the grace to notice what was arising from the depths of my heart. When I did this, it revealed a temptation that was holding me back from connecting with God. The temptation here was that God had a limited amount of love for me, and it might just run out if I said the “wrong” thing. Through this prayer experience, I was reminded that I needed to let go of any presuppositions about who God is and how God operates. When I finally saw the temptation for what it was, I was able to let go of my self-judgements and focus instead on Jesus’ transforming gaze and the unconditional love he was offering me.

Ignatian contemplation is a powerful method of prayer. It fosters a relationship with Jesus that illuminates the interior and allows us to live more fully and authentically, unencumbered by dissonant thoughts and feelings. It empowers us, time and time again, to see through all of the stuff of living that can get in the way of our relationship with God and helps us to accept that transforming Love that is always seeking us.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.


  1. Rebecca: Your faith and ability to personalize events to assist the rest of us in our prayer livesour especially as we fear losing the Love of our Friend, Jesus. Through your words, you stress the Human appeal and Divine Consolation of God…who wept when you wept.
    Thank you for your powerful meditation.

    • Hi Annette,
      So nice to hear from you. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.
      Prayers for you and yours this Eastertide!

  2. Dear Father, please be with all of us on earth. Heal and bless all those struggling with life. It’s in Jesus name, I pray. Amen

  3. Katy just asked Mary and Joseph’s intercession for you and husband to bless, help and comfort you both. May the Risen Christ be with you and give you peace.

  4. Wow, Rebecca,

    I sure needed to read this. The line about God’s love running out, sure hit home.

    My long marriage is in trouble, husband is struggling to cope with outside stresses and I can’t keep taking his anger and outbursts, which seem to occur more regularly. Bitter words been said. He isn’t coping and won’t seek help. I’m so grateful for Prayer Sites like this and Sacred Space.


    • Dear Katy,

      I’m so sorry for your pain. God is close to those who call upon Him. I will pray for you and I’m so glad to see the Ignatian community here lifting you in prayer.

      I would be remiss if I did not mention that if you are in a situation where you fear for your safety, or the safety of your family members, please seek out help from a counselor, clergy member, or emergency services.



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