What do you think when you hear the word “solitude”? I see a vision of myself sitting by a pond with a fishing pole. And I truly am alone, because there aren’t any fish in the picture. How about you? Do you picture a desert island? A cabin in the woods? Chances are, no matter what you picture, you envision yourself alone.
Solitude can be defined as the state of being alone or withdrawn from society; a lonely life; or loneliness. Sometimes we use solitude in unhealthy ways. One of these is being alone with our own thoughts. Solitude is not just for being alone when you are in a season of hurt or depression. When I was a teenage girl, I spent a lot of time in solitude. I would put on my James Taylor record – “You’ve Got a Friend,” or Carly Simon – “You’re so Vain.” Or whatever my emotions called for at the time. I was truly in touch with my feelings and my emotions, I thought. I was lonely, and there was a void in my heart that I needed to fill, but I didn’t know how. Have you ever felt that void?
Oftentimes when we are alone, we are accompanied by our own thoughts. Sometimes it is easy for me to fall into over-thinking every conversation, every interaction that I have had during the day. I wonder if I said anything offensive to anyone if I am doing everything I can at work or with my grandkids. I wonder … and I worry. That type of overthinking and self-searching is NOT productive! It can lead to depression. That is not what God is looking for in solitude for you and me.
Another misappropriation of solitude is when we keep listening to scripts from the past. When you are alone, do you hear the voice of a parent, teacher, or other person from your past berating you for something or giving you the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” from your day or your current situation? Some people mistake this script for the voice of God, but that’s also not how He operates in your time with Him.
Closely related to these old voices is the voice of the accuser tempting, trying to keep a person overburdened and pushed down. Scripture has evidence of people who were alone listening to the voice of the enemy and falling for his tricks. Eve listening to the voice of the serpent. David listening to his lust when he saw Bathsheba. Judas listening to the enemy and turning Jesus over to the Jews. How can we defeat this liar and expose him? To fight the devil when we are alone, we need to study the Word and learn how it applies to our lives.
(If you’re hearing ANYTHING in your alone time that is contrary to the Word, it is NOT His voice!)
God has specific purposes for us in calling us to a time of solitude with Him. The first is rest: Jesus said in Mark 6:31-32 – “Come with me privately to a solitary place and let us rest for a while.” Solitude brings us to a place alone WITH JESUS. It is a restful, peaceful place.
Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.
We lead hectic lives today! Do you ever get to the place where everything seems like one more chore? Even the things that you love? I do. Jesus knows all about these feelings. We need rest, and the way to find that is in a time of solitude with Jesus. Remember Him saying, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest… Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29?
Another benefit of solitude is strength. When we have been through a rough season, or a bad day, our strength is sapped. We feel spiritually, mentally, and physically weakened. Isaiah 30:15 says, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.’” Does He think that of you and me? In times when we feel weak, we’ve given all we can give and we feel spent, we can be restored IF we will wait in solitude, in quiet with Him.
What was Jesus doing during these times of solitude? He wasn’t being all introspective or wondering how everyone felt about Him. He SURE wasn’t listening to the voice of the accuser. He was basking in the presence of His Father, enjoying fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and regaining physical and spiritual strength. Jesus did what he did by power and presence of the Holy Spirit in His life. He loved all His family and friends, but He gained strength from His alone time with His Father.
What are some things that get in the way of us having productive, restorative solitude?
Finding time alone. When Kelly and I were first married, we had a friend who lived in our same apartment complex. He was a single guy, and every night when I got home from work, he was there! He would stay for supper, and he would stay and stay until Kelly finally said we needed to have some time by ourselves. We were newlyweds! We were very protective of our alone time! What is crowding in on your alone-time with Him? Sometimes you have to get assertive and just enforce your time in the Father’s presence.
Feeling comfortable alone: I will admit that it is hard for me to be in a quiet house. I usually want to have the TV or music on always. I seem to favor distraction and escape. Early in the morning, though, I love the quiet. If total silence troubles you, try instrumental “soaking” music. It fills the silence, but it doesn’t interfere with the voice of God speaking.
Expectation: In I Kings 19, Elijah was feeling down. He needed the presence of the Lord. He was looking for something BIG! God told him to stand by the mouth of the cave. The Lord was not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire. “And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” I Kings 19:11-12
When you meet with Jesus, what are you expecting? Some days will be full of goosebumps and feelings. Other days will be a quiet, peaceful assurance that you are His. I challenge you this week to find some time to have solitude with Jesus each day. See what a difference it makes for you!
We would like to thank Sheri Warren for writing this post