Loneliness can be deadly. It is the most reported reason people give for suicide upon failed attempts, and likely is the major reason for most suicide successes. At the same time, our Father never intended for us to live in a 24/7 cacophony of crowds, noise, constant input and stimulation overload!
From the beginning, when there were only two people in the world, they enjoyed each other’s company and visits with their Creator, who we assume routinely came in the evening to walk with them. But much of their time in the Garden of Eden was spent ‘alone’ without human interaction. Of course, they had jobs to do, tending the plants and grooming the animals, but there just wasn’t much news on the Eden Television Network, nor headphones and towers to keep them connected.
One can not help but wonder if David could have found such intimate communion with God apart from sitting alone with his dad’s sheep under the stars, whose radiance was unhindered by street lamps or satellites. How many times did he look over the flocks on a hillside at night and consider the ways of his Creator:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world. (Psalms 19:1-4)
He learned in the solitude of the mountains and valleys of shepherding that there was a Voice more important than the yells of enemies or the cheers of friends.
It is to this Voice that we are called in solitude, accompanied by silence. “Solitude” is not just being alone with our iPods and TVs, or even books and writings. Solitude is being ALONE. The only other Presence allowed is the One who created us. “There is the freedom to be alone, not in order to be away from people, but in order to hear the divine Whisper better.” (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline) Daniel experienced some of his greatest visions in times of solitude (Daniel 10:8). Jeremiah lamented alone and there found that God was good to those who seek Him and wait quietly for His salvation (Lamentations 3:25-28).
Jesus often looked for quiet places alone for prayer and meditation, as we noted in a blog a couple weeks ago (January 31, 2017). This was a Man who had heard His Father’s Voice clearly announcing His initiation of His ministry; He had experienced the Holy Spirit working miracles through Him; angels ministered to Him at times of aloneness; yet, He found it worthwhile to withdraw to desolate places to be alone with His Father (Luke 5:16). If Jesus needed this solitude, away from the clamor of the crowd, how much more do you think we need times away from the pressures of our jobs, the cries of our opposition, even from the accolades of our friends?
In times of solitude we can best hear His voice, because we are never completely alone, if we know Jesus. We have His promise to be with us until the end of this age (Matthew 28:20), just as He knew He was never completely alone (John 16:32). Pity the one who has no one in those times of solitude, perhaps explaining why some need so desperately to have noise continually from the TV, the radio, or their personal stereo. How miserable it must be to be truly alone!
In dark times of the soul, solitude can provide us with the whispers that He is with us. In times of celebration, solitude can take us to places of humility where we realize we are not a big as the applause would have us believe. In times of discouragement, solitude can lift us. In times of hard work, solitude can strengthen us to persevere. In times of blessing, solitude can remind us what is truly valuable. In times of poverty, solitude can assure us of rewards that outweigh the losses of this life. In times of health, solitude can help us see beyond this life to one that is eternal. In times of illness, solitude can comfort us with promises of a land where we will never die.
So begin now, this week, with resolution to make time for solitude. Turn off the TV, leave your cell phone in a room far away, hide from your boss or coworkers (not when you are supposed to be at work! ), tell your spouse and children that you need some time alone (not ME time!), lay the books and pens and papers aside, and go alone to meet with Him.
For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from Him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. (Psalms 62:1-2, 5-8)
Listen in solitude for His whispers in the dark. But “what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” (Matthew 10:27) Next week, February 20, 2017, we’ll discuss this when we look at Community, then next Discipline of the Spirit-led life.