(September 19, 1990)
Some people have a great deal of difficulty leaving a blank piece of paper blank. Their urge to make their mark, whether on a napkin or a newly painted wall, is just too powerful to resist. Out comes pen or pocket knife and the void is filled with poems, doodles, sketches, or graffiti.
Others feel ill at ease and self-conscious with complete silence. They have a compulsion to fill it with noise. Talking, turning on the radio or just drumming fingers on the nearest table top becomes a must.
For some, solitude is equally uncomfortable, another blank space that must be filled. Some manage better than others but even loners discover that solitude can last too long. In fact, when confined, few people remain unaffected. Most want noise, activity, other people, something, anything. No wonder solitary is used as a punishment in correctional institutions.
Solitude isn’t God’s punishment though. In fact, I don’t think He wants us to experience it, or its sidekick, loneliness. Neither word is even in the Bible. When God created the first man, He said, “It is not good that man should be alone...” thus Eve was created to be his companion. But sometimes there is no one or nothing to fill our solitude. When that happens, we ought not feel completely abandoned. God did say, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Of course He won’t; it is impossible for Him to do so. He is everywhere. There is no place we can go to escape Him, so no one is ever really alone.
Maybe that is why it is so difficult to be in solitude. With no noise, no diversions, no one else to communicate with, we are left alone in His company. If we have a true concept of God, being shut up with Him is sure to be a disconcerting experience, one that is bound to result in certain responses. One of those might be resistance...
WRESTLING: Jacob, the Old Testament patriarch, spent all one night alone, wrestling with God. He desired a blessing from Him and God desired submission from Jacob. By morning, both were winners: God gave the blessing and from that time on, Jacob was a changed man. If solitude with God winds up in a wrestling match, we profit if we remember that losing is winning. Submission to Him always results in a blessing.
PRAYER: The only times Jesus was alone, at least that are recorded, are occasions when He sought solitude to pray. When we submit to the Lord, solitude can be an excellent time to talk to the only other Person with us in it -- and of course, a great time to listen to Him.
LEARNING: During the many occasions that the disciples spent alone with Jesus, they learned truths He couldn’t teach them in a larger group. For us, solitude also can be a great time to learn from the Lord in a very direct and personal way; but we must listen, not drown Him out with noises of our own.
RETREAT: In John 6:15, we are told the people decided Jesus would make a great king so tried to force Him into the role. Since it was not God’s will at that time, He took off to the mountains, alone. Sometimes the only way we can escape the pressures of our world is to retreat and get away from the pressure. Besides, being alone with Him will better equip us to deal with it.
SEEING JESUS: Perhaps the greatest profit in being alone is realizing who is there with us. In Luke 9, the disciples were alone with Jesus and He asked them who they thought He was. They responded with, “You are the Christ of God.” They knew His identity because each time they were alone with Him He revealed Himself to them in increasing intimacy until finally they were convinced. From then on, their lives were transformed and they became world-changers. It can happen to anyone who values being face to face with Christ.
Solitude might not be our choice at times, but when it is God’s choice for us, it helps us to remember we are never really alone. He is there to fill the empty space and give beauty and meaning to it. Instead of shutting out His voice by turning on the radio or rushing to the telephone, we can choose aloneness to be a wonder-filled opportunity to talk to the Lord, to hear what He has to say and in the process, become more intimate with Him.