Solitude is something that the 20th-21st century American evangelical church knows very little about, simply because the evangelical church majors on the “doing” aspect of the Christian life. Solitude is an ancient spiritual discipline meant to lead us into communion with God. Solitude deals with the aspect of our being, as opposed to our doing. See this post about the 3 aspects of the Christian life: Being, Believing, and Doing.
Examples of Jesus Using Solitude
- 40 days in the desert
- Before he chose the 12 he spent the entire night alone in the desert hills (Luke 6:12)
- When he received the news of John the Baptist’s death (Matt. 14:13)
- After the feeding of the 5,000 (Matt. 14:23)
- Following a long night of work (Mark 1:35)
- When the 12 returned from preaching (Mark 6:31)
- Following the healing of a leper (Luke 5:16)
Is that enough examples to convince you that solitude and silence were important to the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus. A good question to always ask is, “If Jesus found this important, why would it not be important to us?”
Foundational Ideas of Solitude & Silence
Enabling ourselves to hear from God and see people with clarity.
In solitude, we enable ourselves to hear from God because we get away from all the “noise” around us. Noise can be auditory (radio, music, tv, people talking) or visual (internet, tv, etc) or what I call “to-do list” noise (all the random little things of life that we take care of). In solitude, all of this noise is removed.
Solitude also teaches us to see people clearly. One of the things I want you to notice from Jesus’ use of solitude is how he frequently sought out solitude before or after times of ministry (see list above). Solitude helps us to refocus on God’s heart for people. People get under our skin. Ministry is people intensive. The fruit of solitude and silence is increased sensitivity and compassion for others. Solitude and silence teach me to love you for who you are, as you are.
In a way, solitude is the pathway into many of the disciplines. Just try fasting without solitude. Or try prayer without solitude??? How do read the Bible when you’re in a hurry? How do you properly worship God without focusing on him. The desert or the closet (Biblical images for solitude) is the place of strength for the believer.
A Word About Silence
Silence goes hand in hand with solitude, making it a reality. Here’s a few verses of Scripture about silence…
For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” – Isaiah 30:15
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. – Ecclesiastes 5:1-2
For every thing under heaven there is a season…
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak – Ecclesiastes 3:7