By Chris WittsSunday 15 Dec 2013Morning Devotions with Chris WittsUncategorizedReading Time: 0 minutes
What Is Solitude?
We’ve already seen Keith Drury’s definition. Let me just expand on that a bit…Solitude is getting away from the noises of life,the stresses of life,and the people of our lives for the purpose of connecting with God. Notice I said it’s “getting away.” It’s not “running away”,it’s “getting away.” When you run away,you’re trying to avoid life. You’re trying to escape from your problems and pretend they don’t even exist. That’s running away. But when you get away for the purpose of solitude,you’re not trying to avoid life–you’re just putting it on hold for a while. You’re regrouping so you can come back and face your problems and face your challenges with a renewed focus and a renewed strength.
And the example that we look to for what it means to practice the habit of solitude is none other than Jesus Himself. Jesus regularly got away by Himself to a quiet place in order to spend time with His Father.
Jesus lived an incredibly busy life. He travelled throughout a good portion of Israel,teaching people,healing people,telling people about the Kingdom of God… there were all kinds of demands on His time,crowds of people followed Him around,He faced opposition daily from the religious elite who felt threatened by Him,He received death threats,He performed miracles,He squeezed in time to mentor His disciples… in fact,there were days when He was so busy He didn’t even have a chance to eat! But even with all that,Jesus made the time to get alone with God. He didn’t runaway from His challenges,but He did get away from them for a time so He could come back and handle them much better. He carved out margins in His life to practice the habit of solitude.
Just a few examples…
Right at the beginning of His ministry years,Jesus spent 40 days alone in the desert. Before He chose His twelve disciples,He spent time in solitude.
After receiving the sad news about the execution of his relative,John,He felt the need to get away and spend time with His Father.
After highly busy seasons of His life,like after spending an entire day teaching a crowd of thousands and miraculously feeding them all supper,He needed some time in solitude to reenergize. In Mark 1,we saw how Jesus had an incredibly busy day healing people and it went on right into the night. Jesus was worn out. So what did He do? He got up early the next morning,took time in solitude to talk with His Father,and when He came back He was reenergized and He had a fresh focus for the next day.
And of course,there was the time Jesus spent in solitude right before His arrest,trial,and crucifixion. If He hadn’t spent that time alone with His Father,would He have been prepared to endure what He had to endure? I don’t know. Perhaps not.
What I do know is that Jesus set an example for us to follow. If Jesus,who is God,needed to practice solitude,then I’m certain that you and I need to.
Why Are We Resistant to Practicing Solitude?
1. The Fear of Limited Time
This is the fear that says,”You’re too busy! If you take time for solitude,there’s no possible way you’ll have the time to get everything done that needs to get done.” That’s what this fear says,but the truth is,that’s exactly why you need times of solitude.
“Solitude doesn’t give us the power to win the rat race,but to ignore it altogether.”
~ Richard Foster
You’ve got to pull yourself out of the rat race before it destroys you. And the miracle of it is,when you put God first and work Him into your schedule,He helps you with all the rest. And suddenly you find yourself able to accomplish more than you ever could before you spent time in solitude.
Psalm 127:2 (NLT)
It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night,anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.
2. The Fear of Loneliness
Let’s be honest. A lot of people–maybe some of you here this morning–feel lonely. How much worse will that loneliness be in solitude?” But that’s a misunderstanding about what solitude is. Here’s how Richard Foster describes the difference between loneliness and solitude…
“Jesus calls us from loneliness to solitude… Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.”
~ Richard Foster Celebration of Discipline,p. 96
Solitude and loneliness do not have to go together. They are not the same thing. Loneliness concerns itself with emptiness and despair. But solitude is all about finding joy and fulfillment through spending time one-on-one with God. And there’s a BIG difference.
“Language has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone,and the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”
~ Paul Tillich
3. The Fear of Seeing Ourselves Clearly
Maybe you don’t like solitude because you don’t like the company. You don’t want to be by yourself because you know that you’ll see yourself for who you really are. In the Old Testament,the prophet Isaiah had an experience like that. He encountered God in a vision,and when He experienced the holiness of God he couldn’t help but notice the wickedness in himself. This is what He said…Isaiah 6:5 (NLT) “It’s all over! I am doomed,for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips,and I live among a people with filthy lips.”
Isaiah was confronted with the face of his own sinfulness. That’s not a very pleasant experience. But that’s not where the passage ends,is it? Yes,Isaiah came face to face with his own sinfulness. But then he experienced the cleansing work of God. He said…
Isaiah 6:6 (NLT)
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said,”See,this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed,and your sins are forgiven.”
So yes,in solitude you may see the ugliness within yourself. But that’s a good thing,because it gives you the opportunity to experience the forgiveness and cleansing work of God.
4. The Fear of Seeing God Clearly
Again,this has to do with sinfulness in our own lives. We know that God knows us completely. There’s nothing that’s hidden from Him. And so we’re afraid to be alone with Him because we know He’s going to call us to account for it. It’s like being called to the principal’s office. It’s a scary thing,so we tend to avoid it if at all possible.
But what we’re forgetting is that God is also all-loving. And He doesn’t want to punish us nearly as much as He wants to redeem us. He wants to make us right. He wants to cleanse us and restore us so that we can experience joy instead of fear in His presence.