…their reply is usually filled with questions: All alone? All by myself? No one else will be there? …and then comes their answer: “No, I don’t think so.” All of this in response to the question and encouragement, “Have you ever thought of spending a couple/few days alone with God?”
Retreat; pull away, solitude, silence, this has been a practice—for thousands of years—for anyone who wanted to encounter the Living God. Both the Old and New Testament record numerous meetings with God in the “wilderness.” Just as fasting (sacrificing food), causes us to be physically uncomfortable, silence causes us to be relationally uncomfortable, and solitude causes us to be spiritually uncomfortable. Each of these spiritual disciplines is what allows God to truly be our COMFORTER!
Jesus often withdrew to lonely places in the wilderness for prayer. (MRK 1:35, LUK 5:16) At one point when His followers returned from a preaching and healing tour, Jesus instructed them, "Let’s get away by ourselves; let's take a break and get a little rest." They were always coming and going; they didn't even have time to eat. (MRK 6:31) Jesus exampled that to go away from people, empowers us to be truly present when we’re with them.
The fear of being left alone petrifies most people. Fortunately, Jesus calls us from loneliness to solitude. Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment. Throughout His ministry Jesus exampled what it means to pull away; He moved from the distractions, comforts and normalcy of daily living, to meet with His Father. (MTT 4:1-11, LUK 6:12, MTT 14:13, MTT 14:23, LUK 5:16, MTT 17:1-9, MTT 26:36-46)
One reason most people (including myself) can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying on words to manage and control others. If we are silent who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let Him take control until we trust Him. Silence is incredibly connected to trust.
I personally don’t like the quiet, because in the quiet, God has a tendency to speak… primarily because now He can be heard! And almost every time He’s pointing out that one thing I haven’t quite surrendered. For Abraham, it was Isaac, (GEN 22:2) the promise of legacy. For the young-n-rich ruler, it was his possessions (MRK 10:21). He came to Jesus wondering what he could do; and walked away understanding what he was unable to do. It causes me to question: What is “that” which keeps us from turning our life over—fully—to God?
If you’re wondering what the answer to that question could be; there’s a place of silence and solitude where Jesus is waiting for you, to have a conversation with you. Not only will He challenge you, but He’ll comfort (as he promised) and RE you as well… REstore, REnew, REfresh, REvitalize, REbuild, RElease, REcreate, REveal, and a whole lot more!
And it all begins with a different response: “I could do that!”
NOTE: We must seek out the re-creating stillness of solitude if we want to be with others meaningfully. We must also seek the fellowship and accountability with others if we want to be alone safely. We need to cultivate both if we are to live in obedience.