The Value of Solitude

In recent years, there has been an ever-growing conversation among Christ-followers on the subject of the spiritual disciplines, and it is an important conversation. In his book The Call, Os Guinness writes about both the importance and the challenge of embracing disciplines, saying:

Jesus calls us to specific spiritual disciplines that are vital… Neither of the two terms in “spiritual discipline” comes easily to us as modern people—we are by nature neither spiritual or disciplined. But if we see discipline as the necessary training we undertake to help us do what we cannot do by direct ordinary effort, spiritual discipline operates on essentially the same principle as training for athletics or learning to play a musical instrument.

What are these disciplines? That is a good question, because Scripture doesn’t give a definitive list of spiritual disciplines. Some lists have two, others five. Some have seven and even twelve such practices. All of these can benefit us in our walk with Jesus, but let’s focus here on one—solitude. This discipline is one that is only spoken of occasionally, but is nevertheless practiced regularly by the people of God in both the Old and New Testaments:

  • Moses in the wilderness of Midian (Exodus 3:1)
  • Elijah on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8–9)
  • John the Baptizer in the Judean wilderness (Luke 1:80)
  • Jesus in his 40 days in the wilderness (Luke 4:1–2)

  • Jesus in his solitary times of communion with the Father (Luke 6:12)
  • Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:35)
  • Paul in the Arabian desert (Galatians 1:17)

Jesus modeled this practice over and over in his time on earth. It is often highlighted in sermons, Sunday School classes, books and blogs (like this one) as an essential practice for him. Before every key moment in his public ministry, Jesus spent time alone in the presence of his Father, with the above example being his time spent in prayer the night before calling his twelve disciples. If Jesus found such times to be that vital, how much more important is it for us to know the recalibrating impact of time spent with God and God alone. And, this is not just for spiritual rest and reflection—this season of solitude is for a refocusing of our hearts and lives on the One who loves us and has made us his own. Guinness captures this value well:

…solitude is vital for training us to stand against the excesses of our culture. Whereas normal life puffs up our sense of self-importance and locks us into patterns of thought and behavior dependent on others, solitude liberates us from these entanglements by carving out a space from which we can see ourselves and our situation before the Audience of One.

As we learn the lessons of the spiritual discipline of solitude, we can find renewed gratitude to and reliance on the God who deserves to be the centerpiece and focus of our lives—equipping us with a fresh perspective on how we engage life and one another as His children.

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