I do some of my best thinking and praying while running or biking. This morning I considered how biking hills is not a bad analogy to the discernment of consolation and desolation in the spiritual life. Here’s the idea.
Coming to the beginning of a long upward climb can be a daunting experience. You see it looming, and you see that it will be hard and tiring. There is a temptation to quit or turn around. This is like desolation: it is a period in life when just moving through days can be difficult.
Conversely, the descent downhill can be exhilarating. The wind is rushing past you as you are moving fast without effort. That is like consolation.
Much of the ride is the ordinary work of pedaling, one crank after another. You settle into a rhythm. It can be more or less difficult based on how you’re feeling and the conditions outside and on the road.
I think the only way to think about life is as a long ride. There will be flats and hills. Ignatius’s counsel is very important: don’t just look for consolation, don’t despair in desolation—just keep pedaling (as it were). Prepare for uphill climbs by building momentum and speed before them, and they won’t crush you. Keep the focus on the destination, but enjoy the ride.
Thank you so much and God bless you Tim for this wonderful and so poignant analogy for me at this time. I have been training for a charity cycle ride next weekend and really have been struggling with my life and understanding of Almighty God. I can carry this with me as I train, on the day itself and amid the struggles and joys which each day brings.
I’m also a regular cyclist and loved your analogy. You made me consider the similarity between the discipline of prayer and that of exercise. Of course just like exercise I need to stick with prayer until God gets me back to that better place of consolation!
I was always told by my mom (40 yrs older), that life and even years have their ups and downs and to not wallow in the Desolation, as there is a Joy – or Consolation, after the rough times.
This is a perfect Reminder during the Lenten Season. Your article speaks to me.
Your post also reminds me to be careful on the downhill. Sometimes I mistake my own ideas in the aftermath of consolation. Did God really inspire that? Or is that me getting ahead of myself again?
Love the analogy. Having just completed a tough 4 day cycling challenge I do get it although I have much to learn about cycling and prayer.
As a regular road cyclist I can empathise. I use a good cadence tune…”this is the day, this is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made….”
Thank you, Tim
This has been most helpful.