The inconstancy of our inner state

4 July 2023

You complain about the volatility of your inner state- sometimes it’s good, at others it’s bad. It can’t be otherwise.

‘I’ve undergone unpleasant spiritual states in a variety of forms and continue to do so’. All we can do is bear them with patience and fortitude, without relaxing our spiritual struggle and without neglecting our observance of God’s commandments, which is exactly what you’re doing.

A good spiritual state arrives. It leaves. A bad one comes along. It also leaves. The alternation is continuous and unavoidable. All you can and ought to do is always desire and pursue what’s good.

St. Theophan the Recluse

If we don’t ever face any difficulty, we’ll have fallen into a spiritual coma.

Spiritual fluctuations

Everyone’s affected by spiritual fluctuations and the only thing you can do is bear them calmly and place yourself in God’s hands. Take no thought for anything other than this: be with the Lord at all times. Whatever happens to you, flee to him, reveal your soul to him, take your burdens to him and tell him your pain. And pray that he’ll free you from temptations and sorrows, if that’s his will.

Spiritual euphoria and elation, refreshment and consolation aren’t always signs of spiritual well-being, which actually has three fundamental characteristics: a) eagerness to please God; b) a humble outlook and a contrite heart; c) surrender to God’s will. Do you have these within you? You’re on the right path.

Spiritual consolations in a God-centered life

You’re sad because you quickly lost that inner state of consolation you were in after taking holy communion. But you should know that spiritual consolation, ‘comfort’, in whatever form it visits us- as boundless spiritual peace, indescribable joy, holy zeal, sweet compunction or anything else- isn’t the main thing to seek in a God-centered life. The prime aspiration and basic concern isn’t solace, but decisively and actively maintaining ourselves, inwardly and outwardly in a good condition which is pleasing to the Lord. Any consolation is given by God as ‘bait’, as a challenge and exhortation. ‘This is what you’ll enjoy; so strive’. So when we lack something, we shouldn’t despair, but fight ‘the good fight of faith’ (1 Tim. 6, 12) with greater zeal, steadfastness and persistence.

Spiritual pleasures aren’t always beneficial

You enjoy basking in spiritual pleasures, in always feeling satisfaction and delight from prayer and your communion with the Lord. This, however, is both impossible and unhelpful. It’s impossible because any form of spiritual refreshment isn’t the fruit of our own efforts, but is a gift from God’s mercy, a gift which is bestowed on a person whenever and for how long God wishes. It’s impossible, also, because as long as the passions live and are active within us, no spiritual pleasure can remain stable in the soul.

In any case, the untimely and illogical pursuit of such pleasures is also, as I said, unhelpful, because it leads to spiritual paralysis and debilitation. We must simply strive in a manner pleasing to God, with zeal and boldness, with watchfulness and self-control, with humility and contrition. Regarding God, two sentiments should be uppermost in our heart: love and awe. The angels stand before him in fear and trembling. I repeat, live in watchfulness, with spiritual vigilance and a humble outlook.