Below is an excerpt from my newly-released book, a 30-day devotional entitled Spiritual Understanding & Prayer on a Stand Up Paddleboard (Hilliard Press). The book is available online through Hilliard Press and on Amazon (profits go to support my mission trip to Brazil with Justice & Mercy Amazon).
Day 23: The Encouragement of Solitude
But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. (Luke 5:16 NASB)
One of my spiritual gifts is the gift of encouragement. In every type of professional work I’ve done, I’ve been able to use my gift to serve my clients and my students. Likewise, in certain friendships and relationships, I’ve had the opportunity to give comfort and confidence to others in times of sorrow and anxiety, and have also had it reciprocated. To get to operate in my spiritual gift is an encouragement to me.
I remember listening to a podcast series by a well-respected pastor on the topic of encouragement. He said that people are in more need of reassurance and relief today than ever in the history of the world. He described different ways we can be an encouragement to others, and how we can be an encouragement to ourselves when we need it most. The pastor said one way we can reassure and restore ourselves is through solitude.
Solitude may be something some people are uncomfortable with, but I’ve learned to relish it, even when I don’t feel like being alone. Here’s what the pastor had to say about solitude:
God used certain people in a mighty way, but before He could, He had to teach them to be alone, teach them what isolation was all about. There is ministry in solitude and if we don’t learn how to cultivate that, we will have a very difficult time encouraging ourselves in the Lord. To be quiet so you can talk to God and so God can talk to you. King David understood the importance of getting alone, and so did Jesus. If a man considers his time to be so valuable that he cannot find time to keep quiet and to be alone, that man will eventually be of no value to anyone. To spend all of one’s time with people is soon to have nothing to give any of them of any value. ~Dr. David Jeremiah
For me, there are a few things I do in solitude that serve as a big encouragement for me. First and foremost, it’s reading the Word at the start of each day and recording in my journal what I think God is saying to me through His Word, as if He were talking directly to me. (Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31–32 NIV)
When I later go back and read what I’ve recorded, it’s often what I needed to be reminded of at exactly that point in time, or it’s to confirm that He did what He promised He would do.
The sounds of nature are also an encouragement to me. Being alone outside, especially paddling on the water, is soothing for me. God’s Word reminds me of the hope I have in Him, while being on the water makes me forget my sorrows and anxieties, at least for those few hours. The rhythm of the paddle strokes, coupled with the sounds of the water and the birds, make everything just melt away for me.
I love paddling on my own when I’m feeling discouraged (which was how I was feeling the day I wrote this). But I also enjoy paddling with a friend or a group who can also serve as an encouragement. I hope whoever is reading this is finding encouragement from the words God has put on my heart to share.
What are your own spiritual gifts (take the spiritual gifts test)? How are you using them, and are you getting encouragement from using them in various areas of your life? Spend some time in solitude to reflect on how you can better fulfill your purpose.
Just last weekend I took a retreat on my own that required complete silence and solitude. It was a reminder of just how true the words of this post are. I encourage you to find time, even if it’s just for 15 minutes a day, to get alone and be with yourself and with God. You’ll return to your daily routine refreshed and renewed.