The discipline of solitude

Separation“Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.” Mt. 14:13

Chapter         (ESV)

Audio              (4:04)

Jesus often sought times of solitude in the midst of His 3-year ministry. Today’s verse records His reaction to hearing of John the Baptist’s death.

When He heard this painful news…Jesus withdrew.

Jesus withdrew from the crowds, from the disciples, and from the requests for healing. Jesus needed time alone with the Father.

We also need to take time to withdraw.

Solitude helps us recover from the painful experiences of this life. Solitude also prepares us for the rigors of medicine and ministry.

For those who are introverts like me, seeking solitude is easy and usually experienced as a welcome relief from our hectic schedules. For those who are extroverts, solitude may not be as inviting.

Regardless of our own predilection, we must learn the balance of spending time with others against spending time alone. Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it succinctly in his book Life Together when he writes, “Only in the fellowship do we learn rightly to be alone and only in aloneness do we learn rightly to live in fellowship…Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.”

But solitude is more than being alone.

In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes that solitude is more a state of mind and heart than it is a place.

Solitude is an attitude of being alone with God rather than simply being alone. Therefore, it is possible to experience solitude in the midst of a crowd. But this type of solitude is developed over time…with practice.

To learn that ability, we need to start by experiencing solitude by withdrawing.

Withdrawing doesn’t just happen.

Withdrawing must be planned for and scheduled. It doesn’t need to be a long length of time. It can be just a few hours or half a day. Take a look at your calendar in the next few weeks and find a few hours you can block out for some time alone…with God.

And be careful not to fill that time with activities such as reading and study. Spend it alone in fellowship with God.

You’ll be glad you did.

Prayer: Lord help me find some time to spend alone with You, and allow me to experience the rejuvenating impact of solitude with You.

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