“But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Matthew 6:6 HCSB
“After dismissing the crowds, [Jesus] went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone.”
Matthew 14:23 HCSB
Solitude. Quiet. Rest.
These words describe spiritual and physical cravings we all have. We weren’t built for the hubbub of a fallen world. We were created for communion with our Creator, to dwell with Him in a paradise of perfect peace as Adam and Eve did in the Garden and as John assures us in Revelation 21 that we will again.
But is it just me, or do those words “solitude,” “quiet,” and “rest” stir up a sense of anxiety too? In the fallen world we live in, solitude can be lonely. Quiet feels dangerous and downright impossible some days. And when I try to rest, anxieties and stressors pounce on me. Trying to hear God in silence is an intimidating challenge in a world of distraction ruled by an enemy who wants to keep us distant from God.
But don’t despair! God commands us to spend time alone with Him in Matthew 6:6, and what God commands, He enables us to accomplish. After all, Jesus, the perfect Man, faithfully sought the Father in solitude (Matthew 14:23). In Christ, we can too.
So I want to share with you three lessons God has taught me recently about the discipline of solitude and how rewarding it can be:
Learn what draws you close to God. We each have special ways we were made to commune with God. For me, nature is the place to be if I want to draw near to God. Something about the power, beauty, and goodness of God on display in all He has made captivates my heart, allowing me to pray, worship, rest, and hear God speak to me in ways I never could otherwise. For others, a dark, empty, quiet space with no distractions is what they need. The sparse surroundings and simplicity allow the world’s distractions to melt away and God’s presence to become real. Still others need a journal, some colored pens, and a sunlit room where they can read Scripture, study it, journal thoughts, and pray the Word. Everyone is different, but God has made each of us a Temple, a holy place where His Spirit and our spirit can commune.
Don’t be afraid that God won’t speak. One of my biggest roadblocks to learning the discipline of solitude has been the fear that God won’t show up. What if I try to listen for His voice, but He never says anything? What if I don’t have enough faith to hear Him? What if He doesn’t love me enough to draw near? Dear sister in Christ, please reject these thoughts as lies of the enemy. I have learned that “what if”s are red flags, warning that lies and fears are attacking and I need to lift up the shield of faith. If you battle these lies and fears when you consider times of solitude, you can use these promises of God as your shield: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you….” (James 4:8a HCSB). “Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7 HCSB)
The discipline of solitude is not optional. Jesus needed time alone with the Father. We do too. And if we are willing to seek Him in this way, He will show us what He showed King David: He is our Shepherd, the green pasture we can lay down in, and He will lead us beside the living waters of His Word and restore our souls when we come to Him. Through seeking Him in the quiet places, He will ready us to walk in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
So my friend, what are ways that you can rest in the Lord today? How has He designed you to commune with Him?
Two resources I have found very helpful as I have sought to cultivate the discipline of solitude are Sacred Pathways by Gary L. Thomas (https://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Pathways-Nine-Ways-Connect/dp/0310361176/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Sacred+pathways&qid=1627151745&sr=8-1) and the free app, One Minute Pause (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/one-minute-pause/id1471913620). I highly recommend using Gary Thomas’ book or online tools to help you discover how you relate to God best and trying the One Minute Pause app as a starting place for taking time in solitude with God.
As you pursue the disciple of solitude, what are some things that you need to be active in conversation with the Lord about? Bring these things before Him. Listen, trust that He will meet you, seek Him in His Word and in prayer, and He will show Himself faithful.