. . . or else they just come when we need them to prepare for disaster.
I hate consolations, because they almost always mean spiritual attack. Whether God sends them when He knows the Enemy is going to strike, or whether Satan attacks when God sends them, the result is the same.
I read the following passage from The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena in my Western Civ. reader, and I’ve always found it illustrative of this point:
Then the soul was restless and aflame with tremendous desire because of the unspeakable love she had conceived in God’s great goodness when she had come to see and know the expanse of his charity. How tenderly he had deigned to answer her petitions and give her hope in her bitterness–bitterness over God’s being offended and holy Church’s being ravaged, and bitterness over her own wretchedness, which she saw through the knowledge of herself! Her bitterness was softened and at the same time grew, for the supreme eternal Father, now that he had shown her the way of perfection, was showing in a new light how he was being offended and souls were being harmed.
Of course the passage has a twofold meaning, which tells us the twofold “danger” of consolations:
1) They strengthen us against the despair of dealing with this hate-filled world. We’re never allowed to stay in them. Sometimes, the Enemy’s attacks come almost simultaneous to the consolations themselves.
2) As St. Teresa of Avila tells us, because “much is demanded of those to whom much is given,” consolations always come with an obligation to improve our own behavior.