The Everyday Matters Bible is a new Bible for women, just released by Hendrickson Publishing in partnership with Christianity Today/Today’s Christian Woman. Here is a short devotional article I wrote for the Bible and got permission to share with you as well . . .
Richard Foster, in his classic Celebration of Discipline, writes, “If we possess inward solitude we do not fear being alone, for we know that we are not alone . . . In the midst of noise and confusion we are settled into a deep inner silence. Whether alone or among people, we always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart.”
Don’t you want that kind of peace and inner strength? In Scripture, Christ makes clear that he desires it for us as well. But rather than peace, most people walk around carrying tremendous burdens. And we’re so busy and distracted in our whirlwind world, we usually don’t even recognize–let alone unload–those burdens. God can help us, and times of solitude can help create the right atmosphere for his work. To experience the kind of peace that comes from inward solitude, we must practice being physically alone with God, forcing ourselves to tune in to his presence, releasing the burdens we needn’t bear, until that tuned-in state becomes natural and normative for us.
We need solitude because when we’re with other people, we’re always relating to them–whether we’re talking or not. We relate verbally, non-verbally, and mentally because we’re constantly aware of the people around us. If we’re conscious of others’ presence, we are relating to them and it is impossible to be only with God.
When we spend time in solitude, we have no one to relate to but ourselves and God. We can reconnect with God one-on-one, and we gain a fresh perspective on life. And as we depend on God for relationship, we grow closer to him.
The Bible gives us a striking example of someone who practiced solitude: Jesus. Jesus often spent time by himself, praying, relating to God the Father. John 6:15 gives us one such example.
John 21:25 tells us that if everything Jesus did on earth were written down, the earth would not be large enough to contain all the volumes describing his deeds. How interesting that among the select activities that are recorded for us, are several occasions when Jesus simply spent time alone. How significant that the biblical writers bothered to tell us that Jesus spent time in solitude. This must have been a regular and important habit for Jesus, and perhaps this time in solitude granted power to his ministry. For example, right after this time of solitude recorded in John 6:15, Jesus famously walked on water.
Perhaps this kind of practice in solitude can build our faith and strengthen our ability to minister to others as well. Time alone with God can bring us strength to face life’s challenges.
Of course, if we are unaccustomed to solitude, as soon as we are alone, we start hearing sounds we don’t usually hear, and this may make us quite uncomfortable. We hear our own internal voices. We notice anxieties, fears, wishes, and desires that the voices of others and our frenetic pace usually drown. Many people believe they can’t truly be with God until those inner sounds are quiet, so they try to silence these sounds when they’re alone and find they can concentrate on nothing else. This presents great frustration. It’s better to relax and let those voices speak their piece. We need to hear them in God’s presence to put them in perspective. As we turn our attention to God and let him sort us out, the din will become quieter. And with further practice, we can hear another new sound–God’s voice breaking through the din.
To get started, try fifteen minutes of solitude. This may seem like a long time. Stick it out and see what happens. You don’t have to be still or even silent. Pray, listen to God, ask God to guide your thoughts, move around, talk aloud, or even sing quietly.
Later, challenge yourself to continue to practice. Think of God as inviting you to spend time with him, away from the distractions and distortions of human society. Set an appointment with him. Where and when God might want you to spend time alone with him? in your bedroom in the morning? in a church near your workplace in the middle of the day? in a closet in your house? in the park or at the beach after you drop off the kids at school?
Through the practice of solitude, we can reconnect with God one-on-one. Solitude builds faith by forcing us to depend on God for relationship–and for the truth about life. It is possible to incorporate the spiritual discipline of solitude into your life. You can get away by yourself even for just five minutes a day, and that time of solitude with God can have a big impact in your life–as it did for Jesus.
© 2012 Amy Simpson.