Is SOLITUDE a scary word for you?
How much time do you spend alone? I mean, just you. No people interaction, no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or SnapChat. No TV or Youtube. Maybe even ditch the book. Just you.
“Why should I?” you might be asking. “Aren’t we supposed to be relational beings? What benefit is there in solitude? What if I can’t get away from my peeps? And, since this is an online Bible study, is solitude really a biblical habit commanded by Scripture?”
In our continuing study of Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, we come to the chapter about Solitude. I had the same questions you might be having. I came to the conclusion that, like many of the practices we’ve discussed, solitude is a tool that leads us to develop habits and traits that definitely do have a biblical base.
Let’s look at the Word
The Bible gives us six examples of men who spent time alone with God:
- Jacob wrestled with God (Genesis 32:22-32).
- Moses camped out with God on the mountain for many days (Exodus 20:21; 24:18; 34:28).
- Elijah, after the confrontation at Mt Carmel, left his servant and went on into the desert. There, he met with God and received his next assignment (1 Kings 19).
Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1,2).
- Jesus tried to get away with his disciples after the death of John the Baptist (Mt 14:13). But 5000 families tracked him down (Mt 14:14). The need for solitude was strong enough that, after he fed the people, he didn’t give up. He sent everyone away, including the disciples and headed to the hills (Mt 14:22,23).
- Peter was by himself on the rooftop of a house when he had the vision of the sheet coming down from Heaven. God used that time to prepare him for the arrival of the delegation from Cornelius (Acts 10:9-23).
- Paul spent three years by himself in Arabia after his conversion (Galatians 1:16-18).
What do I learn from these examples? Solitude in and of itself is not the main point. It’s what we do while we are alone – praying, studying, and focusing on God. Solitude creates the environment for those relational moments with our Heavenly Father to happen. Each of these people had an encounter with God when they were by themselves.
What good will solitude do me?
Here are seven benefits of solitude:
- Provides a time to rest. Elijah needed rest.
- Reduces distractions so we can hear God better. Jesus had to take his disciples to remote places, so he could teach them in private.
- Declutters our lives and teaches us that God is enough. Jacob, Jesus, Paul, and Elijah were away from all comforts of daily life. Stripped of the extras, they were able to focus on God and God alone.
- Clarifies our awareness of God. Each of the Biblical people above had an encounter with God when they were alone and away.
- Teaches us to slow down and let God do the work instead of us. (See Psalm 37:7 and Exodus 14:14.)
- Teaches us to control our thoughts and our tongue. We can be still and silent even within a group. The ability to marshal our thoughts when we are by ourselves will help us be better listeners and control our tongue when we are with other people. Check out Proverbs 17:28 and James 1:19. Ouch!
- Renews our strength. Just as Elijah found renewal, we can come back to our work refueled. As my close friend, Pam, says, “Sometimes the best thing I can do for my family is to go upstairs, close the door, and read a book.” We will relate with people better if we derive our strength from God.
How do I get away and alone?
You might think you are trapped in your environment. Every one of us can seek solitude.
When can you grab a few quiet moments?
Here are some ideas:
- Early morning before we get out of bed.
- A few moments over a cup of coffee.
- Last thing before bed, step out and enjoy the silence of the night.
- Some moms find their only escape is in the bathroom. If that’s what it takes, do it!
- A scheduled retreat. Let your family know this is important to you. Plan a Day Alone With God . Where could you go to have your own personal retreat?
Foster emphasizes that solitude is not just physical escape; it is solitude in the inner man. The important lesson is not that we have alone time but that we use our alone time to be with God, whether we spend the time thinking, meditating, praying, listening, or studying.
Do I have to do or think anything?
This lesson is hard for me. Sometimes, it’s good to just rest. Not think, pray, ponder, plan, or fret. Just be. Just let go of the world for a few moments, give the controls over to God, and let the world spin without me for that period of time. That’s the purpose behind my 20-minute power naps in the afternoon. I may or may not doze off, it doesn’t matter. It’s a time to recharge and not think about anything. I rise from my chair, renewed and re-energized, ready to face the rest of my day after reaffirming God’s purposes and plans for me.
Perhaps that’s what God had in mind when He said, “Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).” As we get alone and away, we can take a deep breath and remember who is in charge. After all, the rest of that verse says, “I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in all the earth.”
How will you seek solitude this week?
Look at your to-do list and Day-Planner. When can you spend time alone with God? What will you need to give up in order to spend time alone with Him and no one else? How will you spend that time?
Let me know! How did your time of solitude go? How are you closer to the Lord and refreshed for what He wants you to do because of it?
May you be blessed and refreshed as you bask in your Savior’s presence!