Seeking Solitude in a Busy-Full Life
September 18, 2014 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
We have all heard it said that no person says on his or her death bed, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” Usually this statement is used to encourage setting good priorities for the use of our time. Time with family and friends or in serving others often is esteemed as having greater priority.
What about time in solitude?
Solitude is not highly valued in our culture. It feels lonely. It feels unproductive. It can feel very uncomfortable, not having anything to distract us from our inner thoughts and emotions.
Solitude, however, has been a highly valued spiritual discipline throughout the history of the church. We even see in Scripture the prophets of the Old Testament, our savior Jesus, and the apostle Paul seeking regular times of solitude for the sake of nurturing their spiritual life with God, to seek God’s will, and to prepare for the ministry to which God has called them.
What makes solitude so valuable? In speaking about the discipline of solitude, Dallas Willard hints at two values of solitude: “The life alienated from God collapses when deprived of its support from the sin-laden world. But the life in tune with God is actually nurtured by time spent alone” (The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 101).
1. Solitude opens our hearts and minds to see our sinful dependencies, thus leading us to repentance. Our sinful flesh naturally seeks “life alienated from God.” The pain and darkness of this kind of life is numbed by so many “supports” that we surround ourselves with. We are numbed by work pursuits, academic pursuits, family life, entertainment, etc. Solitude is a focused time of laying aside those “supports” (distractions?) in order to reflect on the state of our heart in relation to God. This often is uncomfortable because we always fall short. Life does collapse.
This misery, however, can be very healthy for our life with God. Solitude affords us perspective on our weaknesses, so giving us the opportunity to grow in our grief and hatred of our sin. This is repentance. We will never come to repent if we are constantly distracted from seeing our true needs.
2. Solitude nurtures us by leading us to savor the goodness of God in Christ Jesus. Solitude is not all about grief and misery over our sin. And it certainly is not a time to shut off the mind and tune out our heart (sleeping in a bed by yourself does not constitute solitude!). Meditating on Scripture and being in prayer intertwined with solitude serves our minds and hearts to see and savor the goodness of God for our souls. Remember, though, solitude is not study of Scripture or to fulfill the discipline of prayer, both of which can lead us to focus on other people or things. Solitude is a focused time of reflecting on the state of our heart in relation to God. It’s in the deepening of our understanding of our neediness and of the abundant provision in Christ that our life with God is strengthened.
Solitude leads to strength in God. Out of this strength we are called to minister to and love the people in our world. Do you prioritize times of solitude?