“Be still and know that I am God” — Psalms 46:10
Quiet Place: Throughout the Bible we see a pattern of prophets and mighty men of God hear the voice of the Lord in solitude. There is something powerful about separating oneself from the world to hear the voice of God. Jesus practiced this more than anyone and as you read the Gospels you will see that Jesus constantly sought solitude. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” — Mark 1:35. “…But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” — Luke 5:16. “Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him.” — Luke 6:12–13. “Immediately the Spirit impelled Him (Jesus) to go out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.” — Mark 1:12. Likewise, Paul after his powerful conversion also sought a time away in Arabia, “But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas (Peter), and stayed with him 15 days.” — Galatians 1:15–18. John the Baptist was a voice of one crying in the wilderness who ate wild honey and locust. Elijah went 40 days and nights to Mt. Horeb where he lodged in a cave and God spoke to him. In the quiet and solitude places the voice of the Lord is heard. Solitude isn’t a location per se unless the Lord specifically calls you to a place, but it is the act of separation from the things of the world. If you recall some of the most powerful times the Lord spoke to you in your life, I would hazard a guess that it likely occurred, with you and God, in a moment where you were separated from the world. It might not have been in a cave or a wilderness, but maybe it was on a long commute or on a walk in a park; where it was just you and the Lord, in solitude, alone and honest with Him, seeking His voice and hearing His words. For us personally, we also carry testimonies that speak to the power of a moment of solitude for major decisions in our lives. I can remember taking a walk by myself across the Charles Bridge in Prague while on a missions trip and asking the Lord, “What should I do with my life?” He simply spoke, “Preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.” It changed my life and I haven’t looked back since. William, on our first journey overseas in 1998 (when he wasn’t yet a believer) walked away from our campfire on the border of China/Myanmar on a clear night to seek answers alone with God. He asked the Lord to show him a sign of a shooting star if He was real, and immediately as he uttered the word “Amen” he looked up and saw the flash of light and a star streaking across the sky. It changed His life and he has been a missionary ever since. God speaks in the solitude places where it’s just you and Him. It is usually profound and life-changing, and if you are looking for answers or direction find your quiet place with the Lord.
Solitude Stigma: In a world that is constantly connected and fighting for your attention, solitude is a lost art. Most people will consider periods of solitude an antisocial behavior and unbearable to practice. It shouldn’t be this way. Practicing solitude doesn’t have to be an extreme measure. It isn’t necessary for a person to become a loner or a hermit to find periods of solitude, Jesus certainly wasn’t either of those, but he found time to break away from the constant press of ministry to commune, in solitude, with the Father. Practicing solitude can coexist in people who are also very social, you just have to find time to be alone with God. The more you do, the more you will hear his voice and follow his path. In the church today, there is stead call to be “plugged in” or “connected”, but equally important for the growth of any Christian is finding time to be alone with God. If you find that you are struggling for answers, or think that you can’t hear from God, it’s likely because you haven’t made time to be alone and listen. “For God alone my soul in silence waits.” — Psalm 62:1
Solitude, Not Loneliness: Simply put, loneliness is the act of being alone and not liking it, whereas solitude is the act of being alone and being totally content. Loneliness is filled with depression and heartache and not a place you want to be. Ironically, people who are popular and socially active tend to exhibit loneliness more than people who aren’t. A reason for this is because the socially active person has a low aptitude for moments of solitude. They fill every second with activities and events because they cannot bear being alone. On the flip side, a person who is a steadfast loner can also slip into a deep state of loneliness if they crave interaction with others, but are too fearful to socialize. So, an extreme either way isn’t the right approach. A healthy mix of being content in every situation is what is needed.
Creative Solitude: Throughout history many people of renown have embraced solitude which led to their moments of creativity and success. Here are a few quotes from such figures.
“The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone — that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born.” — Nikola Tesla (inventor of the alternating current motor).
“Without great solitude no serious work is possible.” — Picasso.
“I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” — Henry David Thoreau.
“When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer–say, traveling in a carriage or walking after a good meal or during the night when I cannot sleep–it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly.” — Mozart
“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” — C.S. Lewis