Pastor Jeff Needleman
The Desolation of Smaug & Eyore, & Dory's Consolation Answer (Text & Video)
The Desolation Of Smaug & Eyore & Dory’s Consolation Answer
Hopefully, you’ve always watched The Hobbit & the story of Smaug; a dragon that brings desolation to the homes of dwarves & humans alike. It’s the story of those seeking to return to the life they once had. Bilbo is moved by the emotional desolation & isolation of the dwarves. In some ways it’s the story of our lives today! We’re dwarfed by our own Smaug… Covid19.
We shouldn’t be surprised at the slew of emotions surrounding the desolation of Covid19. Varying degrees of anxiety, anger, antagonism, anguish, & irritability beset us. & we undergo desolation from isolation. Desolation can leave us with feelings of depression, desertion, somewhat dismal & perhaps devastated, ... with a bleak, gloomy & negative outlook for the present & the future. But there’s another story.
Winnie The Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood exhibited no pessimism or gloom. Yet like real life, the characters displayed everyday personalities that are consistently beset by life’s problems. But unlike real life, there was always a warm fuzzy ending after just 45 minutes. Now 1 animal personified the gloom of desolation.
That was Eeyore, the donkey who’s eternally depressed, pessimistic & downright gloomy. He’s a glass not even ½ full kind of guy. He was- & here’s the new word for the day- anhedonic. It means unable to experience joy & pleasure. Are you feeling a bit anhedonic today? Are you an anhedonkey?
The author AA Milne introduces Eeyore as he’s looking at his reflection in stream: "Pathetic," he said. "That's what it is. Pathetic." He crossed over to the other side & looked at himself again: "As I thought, no better from this side. But nobody notices. Nobody cares. Pathetic, that's what it is." Ya’ll think Eeyore was a little desolate & depressed!
Covid19 may bring about anhedonic feelings of powerlessness, despondency, sadness, discouragement, a loss of hope & a lack of interest & enthusiasm for living. Hopefully the Covid19 feelings are short term & so mild we barely notice it. But for some they may be so severe that they’re debilitated, & the demons are winning the battle in the loss of meaning for our lives.
In my last 2 videos I discussed the true meaning of life & that without God in the mix life is more often then not; Pathetic, That's what it is. Pathetic. God brings color to what might of otherwise have been a bleak & joyless landscape. Now most of us have experienced desolation & depression to 1 degree or another.
It’s nothing new & Godly people in the Bible weren’t immune to it either! As you read through the Biblical stories in Scripture, you’ll find that many of our Biblical heroes experienced those same feelings at 1 time or another, just as we have. Solomon the wise, cries out in: Eccl 1:2 NIV "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." The prophet Jeremiah laments to God in Lam 5:20-22 NLT Why do you continue to forget us? Why have you abandoned us for so long? Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had! Or have you utterly rejected us? Are you angry with us still? The prophet Elijah bemoans his life in 1 Ki 19:4-5 NIV He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, Lord," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."
And we find a disheartened King David bewailing in Ps 89:46-48 NLT: O Lord, how long will this go on? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your anger burn like fire? Remember how short my life is, how empty and futile this human existence! No one can escape the power of the grave.
Eeyore's interpretation of this verse would be... How pointless existence. All will die. Pathetic, that’s what it is. Nobody loves me, I’m gonna eat some worms! King David says in Ps 22:1-2 NIV My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer…
Forsaken… be left desolate. It’s a word that evokes strong emotions. The Amplified Bible version states it this way: why have You abandoned me, leaving me helpless, forsaking and failing me in My need? The Hebrew root word for forsaken means to loosen or relinquish- but Vines Expository Dictionary defines it as to leave entirely, abandon, throw away, leave behind with an air of finality. Forsaken, desolate…
I recently read… on FB of course, that Karma means we get what we deserve, but Christianity means Jesus gets what we deserve. In Matt 27:46 NIV we read that as Jesus hung on the cross taking in our place, He cried out in a loud voice "Eh-lo-ee, Eloi, lama sa-bach-thani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
The NLT says: why have you abandoned me?" The BBE why are you turned away from me? The CJB why have you deserted me?” The NCV why have you rejected me?" Forsaken, abandoned, deserted, rejected, turned away from… how could anybody experiencing these emotions not feel discouraged, isolated, depressed, dejected &/or desolate?
Ignatius of Loyola, a 16th century priest addressed these feelings when he wrote “Rules For The Discernment Of Spirits". He was probably the 1st to suggest the concept of Consolation vs Desolation.
Ignatius wrote “Consolation is when the soul is aroused by an interior movement which causes it to be inflamed with love of its creator & Lord, & consequently can love no created thing on the face of the earth for its own sake, but only in the Creator of all things."
I guess that was a fairly normal way of saying things back then! Groovy man! Needleman’s Interpretive Book of Interpretations identifies consolation as being aware of & consciously feeling God’s awesome presence in our life! We feel supported, comforted, consoled & joyful knowing that God is indeed active & participatory. God is showing up!
On the other hand desolation stands in stark contrast to consolation. Ignatius wrote: “it’s a darkness of the soul, turmoil of the mind, inclination to low & earthly things, restlessness resulting from many disturbances & temptations which lead to loss of faith, loss of hope, & loss of love. It is also when a soul finds itself completely apathetic, tepid, sad, & separated from its Creator and Lord".
Desolation is the feeling of being apart & separate from God, perhaps even thinking we’ve been abandoned by Him. How do we deal with times of desolation being we live in the real world, especially the stuck at home isolation world of Covid-19 world… & not the 100 Acre Wood where we can expect a happy ending in 45 minutes or less- excluding commercials?
Psychologists say that the estrangement from God “may arise from various causes. It may be the result of natural disposition or temperament, or of external circumstances; or it may come from the attacks of the devil…; or from God Himself when for our greater good He withdraws from us spiritual consolation”.
So, how do we battle to get the color & beauty back into the landscape of our lives? I offer a nod of thanks to MinistryHealth.Net for translating Ignatius’s advice into plain English! A great song by Tower of Power states, “Don't change horses in the middle of the stream!”
So 1st; don’t change your direction- stay the course. Good practices, behaviors, paths & decisions are still good! But Ignatius warns us to stick with Biblical principals & to beware of being “tempted to follow the guidance & counsel of the evil spirits”, & I would add, the advice of the world & social media offer as well!
2nd; keep striving! In desolation isolation, think long-term! Short term pain means long term gain… & hope! Stay the course with patient persistence. Even if we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, Ignatius states "that consolation will return, [so]- strive diligently against the desolation".
3rd; patient persistence is strengthened by increased spirituality! Ignatius urges us to starve desolation by spending more time pursuing God! Paul's echoes this advice in Eph 5:19-20 NIV "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ"
Ignatius promoted not giving up, caving in, or throwing in the towel. Instead, it’s "advantageous to intensify our activity against the desolation”. In plain English, pursue the spiritual disciplines of prayer & listening, time in the Bible, hanging out with the winners & like-minded, & getting involved in service.
Personally, that’s what I did. I wanted to know God so I put my body where I wanted my mind to be. I hung out with the winners & got involved! Years ago it was these things that helped me through the bad times such as the anxiety attacks I experienced, rooted in my fears, such as that of abandonment & rejection.
I would mentally (key word mental) embroider non-existent scenarios proving that I was unloved, uncared about &/or about to be ditched. Ah, the stories I made up in my head would have made great subplots a movie such as the Desolation of Smaug.
For me, there was some kind of weird consolation in the desolation of being the victim & gaining the sympathetic vote. The more I embroidered the harder & faster I’d spin. But like Dory in Nemo, I kept swimming swimming swimming towards emotional health, asking God for help & guidance.
From an interesting saying; “When we feel far away from God, who moved?” I learned that even though it may feel as if God has disappeared, He remains close by. God is still there!
4th Know Thy Enemy. A smart general knows to attack when his enemy is the weakest! At no time is it more critical to know our enemy’s moves than when in Desolation. Ignatius' description of the enemy is rather fascinating but archaic, but the short plain English version is: In the presence of strength the enemy will flee, but in the face of weakness he will let his rage & vindictiveness fly.
Finally, 5th; consider & reflect on the reasons for your desolation. Does it have its root in external forces or internal battles?
Whatever the reason, a most important key to “you can do it, just get through it” is leaning on God. So Covid10 in 2020 is a divine time to develop a truly deeper relationship with God. & thereby-build up your faith & perseverance as He form us more into His image. And remember… The APaul tells us in:
2Cor:12 9-10 NIV "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I [Paul] will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong"
In reality, and if we’re willing to admit it, each one of us is weak, pathetically weak. But in our relationship with God, we find the strength to not only face life, but to conquer! If you would like to talk about your relationship with Jesus, please… contact me! See you next time and be blessed!