Consolation Isn’t Easy

man showing burnout, anguish, and pain - hands over face

Ever have a gut-wrenching day? Not just a hard day, but a day when you felt like there was nothing left inside of you but ache? Maybe it was the day your teenager screamed at you for the umpteenth time and slammed the door in your face. Maybe it was the day you had to put your beloved pet to sleep, or the day you had to walk away from an unhealthy relationship. I had one of those days. And as I sobbed through my prayer, the Voice I could hear in my heart just repeated, “But you did the right thing.” That was my only consolation.

So often in Ignatian spirituality we practice finding God by taking time out to see the beauty of this world. Our consolations are found in the warmth of a morning cup of coffee tasted in the stillness of a sunrise. Or in the laughter of the grandchild with spaghetti on her face. Or in the affirmation of success, a friend’s call, or an invitation accepted. Consolation becomes synonymous with happiness and joy, and at times it is.

But other times it isn’t. Consolation isn’t always easy.

Ignatian spirituality is about transformation, moving ourselves closer to the persons God calls us to be. Transformation is hard. It can hurt. It can mean at times you have to leave behind all you were raised with and told to be true for that which your heart now can’t deny. It can lead you to a point of wondering, “Why would God ask this of me?” and wanting to say, “No, this is too hard. I can’t do it.” It can break your heart. But you know it is the right thing to do.

Consolation doesn’t have to be about ethics or compliance, but knowing in your gut to take the courageous next step. You may not feel joy about it. You certainly may not be happy. It may ache for a while. But somewhere in that ache, you will feel an arm around you and rest your head on the shoulder of Christ, exhausted, knowing you are one step closer to being the person you were created to be.


  1. This is written so simply yet it reaches into the depths of the soul. I have had a day described like this. I cuddled with a darling grandson whose health is questionable. I visited a possible new home for his Aunt, Uncle and family. A very cruel unkindness was spoken to me today by another. A sweet dog licked my face. I connect now with friends on FB and come across this. Surrounding this day is much to be joyful about and also much to weep over. Watching a film this evening I feel pieces of myself are disintegrating and my heart calls out: hold onto yourself.
    I have acted on my gut knowing it was right to speak out for the vulnerable and abused by pur unjust court system. I did so aware I had much to lose and nothing to personally gain, except keeping my integrity and love for others. I sometimes feel I need to do something less dramatic and important, but this step would change my whole life and maybe not for the better, except for keeping myself. In the probable outcome may be another kind of despair, but there may be that slight chance of happiness. And so your last sentence is very meaningful for me. Thank you. I almost stopped reading this after the example of the explosive teen. Been there, but this is worse. You drew me in and I will pray with these words and images you gifted me with.

  2. I read ths and wept real tears.
    I so longed for that encircling arm, that shoulder to lean on…
    But my life has become one long gut-wrenching and in the centre of it there is no encircling arm and no shoulder to lean on.
    What if God is utterly – utterly – absent?
    What if the focus of the gut-wrenching is that all that once seemed most real and most dear now seems to be nothing but a sham and a charade?
    What then?


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