I’m a relational introvert. This may sound like an oxymoron but, to put it simply, I love being with people. But not all the time – I need space and time alone to recharge my emotional batteries.
Let’s be honest, being with people can sometimes be draining. Yet some of us are constantly in the presence of people, needs, demands, and expectations.
Our children are pulling us, our family needs emotional support, friends look for help. The groups we lead look for direction, our work schedules are filled with meetings and events. Some reading this may even be on the edge emotionally.
We can’t remember the last time we were alone, sitting or kneeling before God in solitude. Before we know it, we start losing perspective and burnout knocks on our door.
Not much effective ministry gets done in that state. Therefore, we must make time for solitude with God. It’s so important that we should schedule it in our calendar like any other appointment. Then guard and enjoy it, as a non-negotiable, without explanation or apology.
Dallas Willard said, “The normal course of day-to-day human interactions locks us into patterns of feeling, thought, and action that are geared to a world set against God. Nothing but solitude can allow the development of a freedom from the ingrained behaviours that hinder our integration into God’s order.”
Solitude is time set apart when the hustle and bustle, noise, and pressures of life become muted and our hearts get completely lost in the peace and presence of the Creator. Solitude is time in the secret place with our heavenly Father, free from the distractions the world throws at us at seemingly every moment. Consistent time spent in solitude is vital for the health of our souls.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” Most of us have grown so accustomed to being ‘starved’ of solitude that we’re not even aware of it. We never fully realise how great our need is to be alone with the One who sustains us.
We can be sure we need solitude for one reason – Jesus needed and practised it. All over the Gospels we see examples of our Saviour going off on His own to be alone with the Father.
Mark 1:35, tells us that Jesus, ‘having risen a long while before daylight, went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.’ Jesus had perfect communion with His heavenly Father while here on earth and the Spirit of God rested upon Him, yet He still needed time in solitude.
Jesus, who loved being with His disciples, had compassion on the multitudes, loved ministering to the sick and afflicted, needed time alone. If He needed it, you and I can be sure we need it as well.
When God incarnate saw that time was up and set His face upon the crucifixion, He prepared by spending time alone in the Garden of Gethsemane in conversation with His Father. These times of solitude were necessary to accomplish His purpose on earth. Even as a busy leader, Jesus found a way to balance demands on His time with His need for solitude with the Father. Jesus was seeking solitude, while the masses were seeking Him!
Solitude is a life-giving discipline necessary for every Christian. Richard Foster said, “While loneliness is inner emptiness, solitude is inner fulfillment.” If we want to hear God, we must practise solitude. If we want strength and steadfastness that surpasses our circumstances, we must practise solitude.
We’re designed for time spent in the secret place, simply being with our Heavenly Father. Madeleine L’Engle, a well-known, 20th Century author and poet said this, “Deepest communion with God is beyond words, on the other side of silence.”
The goal of solitude is a point of deep communion with God where words aren’t required in light of God’s glorious presence. The satisfaction of God’s presence fills the emptiness of silence in a way that no song or uttered prayer can.
Our Heavenly Father loves just simply spending time with us, the crown of His creation. As we connect with God’s heart and behold Him face-to-face, His gaze becomes the most important part of our lives. The experiential knowledge of our Heavenly Father then forms the foundation of everything we do.
In moments of solitude with God, the only person who needs anything is us. We bring our needs to God’s limitless supply. There, He sifts out the chaff from the essentials of life. He fixes our focus on what’s important. We come out of the place of solitude with a renewed perspective of who we are and what He’s called us to do.
The spiritual wealth Jesus gleaned from solitude with the Father became a tremendous blessing to the multitudes before Him. Being alone and being in ministry exist in an inevitable tension.
To be effective, we must learn the discipline of keeping both in proper balance. Our purpose as believers, like Jesus, is to serve others, not isolate ourselves to store spiritual blessing for our own enjoyment.
Solitude becomes an investment, one that enriches us so we can pour it out on others. Failure to spend time alone with God will drain our spiritual wells and we’ll have nothing to offer others.