Here is a man living among the dead, trapped in a cycle of self-destruction. He is a burden to his community, who have tried everything to keep him from hurting himself and others. This is a poignant portrait of spiritual desolation—“darkness of the soul, turmoil of spirit, inclination to what is low and earthly, restlessness arising from many disturbances and temptations which lead to want of faith, hope, and love.” This man seems utterly abandoned to desolation, but he is not without hope. Ignatius says that one of the reasons God allows desolation is "to give us a true knowledge and understanding of ourselves,” specifically to know—not just in our head but in our hearts—that we are completely incapable of attaining peace, joy, and love by ourselves. All of this is a gift of God’s grace. In the cave of desolation, we learn to turn the darkest parts and patterns in our soul over to the healing of grace.
- Read Mark 5:1–20.
- Ask God to restore the lost and hurting (including yourself) to "the land of the living” (Psalm 116:9).
- Walk into the shadows and stale air of the demoniac’s cave. See the scars all over his skeletal frame. Feel the weight of his shackles and chains. Hear his haunting howls echo through the cavernous tombs. Do you see yourself reflected in him any way?
- Imagine speaking with the man after he is set to rights. What does he understand about who Jesus is and what he has done for him?
- Talk with Jesus by the boat as he begins to leave as if you are the person who has just been given freedom and consolation. Even as you cling to him, what does he tell you to go and do?
About the Author
Nick Chambers is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Calvary UMC