Here is the first of the 14 rules of discernment of Ignatius:
The first Rule: In the persons who go from mortal sin to mortal sin, the enemy is commonly used to propose to them apparent pleasures, making them imagine sensual delights and pleasures in order to hold them more and make them grow in their vices and sins. In these persons the good spirit uses the opposite method, pricking them and biting their consciences through the process of reason.
It is of the utmost importance NOT to apply this rule across the board to all souls in all stages of sin and virtue. God deals differently with each soul, based on the stage of advancement they have undergone; for this reason temptation, consolation and desolation will also be experienced in varying ways.
A perfect example is the adulterous lover. She knows she does wrong. God’s voice speaks to her clearly, warning her of the wrong she is doing. Her conscience bites, attacks, disturbs. The devil, on the other hand, encourages her by reminding her soothingly of how good she feels in his arms, of his caressing words and gestures, of the gifts she has received from no one else. He reminds her: “You have never ‘felt’ better! How can this be wrong?”
God sends no encouraging consolations to a person living and enjoying a life of sin – he rather reprimands and scolds, trying to get the soul’s attention.
For the “underwater man” surrounded by warm, wet, comforting sin, God’s voice will not strive to get his attention by offering, as it were, a parallel warm spiritual consolation: a soothing word, a gentle touch, a glance, a spiritual light. No, rather, to break his “underwater” lifestyle, God will use a sharp metal object. He will hook, jab, stick and pull. He will scream loud, because the person can barely hear. His goal is much like that of the lifeguard dealing with a drowning child – he must get him out of the water at all costs.
To think that God ALWAYS speaks to the soul in a soft comforting way is to misunderstand the difference of the levels of spiritual progress.
Before listening for God’s voice, it is first necessary to understand which spiritual world I am living in.