His fast of forty days prefigured the lifelong one that we are to practice by abstaining from evil deeds and by containing our desires within the limits laid down by the law of God. - Bishop Jacques-Benigne BoussuetThe second tip to living in the desert with small children is therefore this: We can practice abstinence and fasting every day, as a means of drawing close to God simply by using the opportunities we are confronted with in our daily lives. We can refuse to waste the many invitations to die to our selfish desires and our inordinate attachment to the world. In The Desert We Learn To Distinguish The Voice Of God and The Voice Of The Evil One
… it is tempting to believe that life in the desert is full of sweet conversations with God, with no other care but this “holy laziness whose loving contemplation John of the Cross describes… - Carmelite Brother Jean-Gabriel de l’Enfant-Jesus (The Power of Silence, pg. 85).But the reality is not as such. Instead, when we live in the desert we are frequently besieged with lies from the Enemy, just as Jesus was during his forty days there. We must learn to distinguish these lies from the gentle voice of God.
… distinguishing the true inspirations from God from those which come from the devil, namely, that the former are always gentle, and peaceful, and lead us to confidence and humility while the latter are agitating and suspicious or even to presumption and the following of our own will. - French Jesuit and spiritual director Father Jean-Pierre De Caussade (emphasis mine)The voice of God and the voice of the demonic are altogether different and we must learn to know who is speaking to us. Identifying the two different voices impacts how we conduct ourselves in the world. Satan's voice: "You'll never change. What's the point? Why bother trying?” The voice of God: "I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5) Satan's voice: "Your work, your service? It's pointless. No one cares." The voice of God: "I use the small, the weak and the sinful. Do you love me? 'Feed my sheep.'" (John 21: 17) Satan's voice: "You're not working hard enough, trying hard enough. Harder, faster, better, stronger--that's the key to success." The voice of God: "... and make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as I commanded you." (1 Thessalonians 4:11) Satan's voice: "No one ever listens to you." The voice of God: "I hear what you have to say. You mean something. You are important." (Isaiah 43:1) Verses 15 and 16 of Psalm 44 describe the taunts of the evil one:
All day long my dishonor is before me And my humiliation has overwhelmed me, Because of the voice of him who reproaches and reviles, Because of the presence of the enemy and the avenger.Compare that to Psalm 29, verses 4-5, which describes the voice of God:
The voice of the LORD is powerful, The voice of the LORD is majestic. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.The devil’s words are evil, turbulent, and embittered, filling the mind with discouraging thoughts that rob us of our peace. But Jesus’s words? They are gentle, calm, kind, and loving. The third tip for living in the desert is to learn to distinguish who is speaking to us in order to ensure we are following the Right Voice. The Desert Is Where We Encounter God The demands of family life are not incompatible with the spiritual life; the din of daily duties and the turmoil of difficult parenting situations can be a great reminder of our acute need for a God who saves. In the middle of the throng of needy people, we are reminded of our own neediness and desire for a Loving Father who cares for us. We can look to him to fill us with the strength to build up our reserves when we feel weak from giving ourselves. But this requires a commitment to put our relationship with Christ first in our lives. It means not regarding him as a superfluous and annoying responsibility to be tended to after we conquer the other, more pressing ones. Jesus is the very first thing. He is the goal in the middle of the mess. He is the meaning in the madness. The fourth tip for living in the desert with Jesus during Lent is to remember that He waits for us in the deep desert of our hearts. We must run to him there and learn all He has to teach us.
Copyright 2018 Colleen Duggan
About the Author
Colleen Duggan is the author of Good Enough Is Good Enough: Confessions Of An Imperfect Catholic Mom, published by Ave Maria Press. She is a Catholic writer, teacher and speaker whose work has appeared in Catholic Digest, Creative Catechist, CatholicMom.com, Aleteia, and Integrated Catholic Life.