But he [Jesus] would withdraw to deserted places and pray. (Luke 5:16)
Loneliness is the new buzz word. It is as if loneliness is somehow a sin. Sadly, loneliness and solitude have become synonymous. We’ve become almost fearful of someone who is often alone. “He was a quiet boy.” These seem to be the words used whenever some teenager puts on a trench coat and shoots up a school. So, we overreact, and look fearfully on anyone who appreciates solitude. Plus, with the advent of social media, the opportunities for solitude are fewer-and-fewer.
As an extrovert, I’ve often felt uncomfortable with silence. I am most effective when I think out loud. I need noise and concentrate best with the din of conversation going on around me. It has taken me many years to feel comfortable in solitude. There is a Presbyterian Camp in Minnesota, Camp Clearwater Forest, that has a primitive cabin available for clergy. A number of years ago, I decided to face my discomfort and hang out in the cabin by myself for a week. The first three days were painful. It was almost like having drug withdrawals (I’m guessing). The last four days, I found my groove. I enjoyed taking long walks in the woods and along the lake. I read my books, uninterrupted. They spoke to me in ways they didn’t when I was constantly interrupted. Now, I’ve come to value those rare days of solitude.
When you surround yourself with moments of solitude and stillness, you become intimately familiar with your environment in a way that forced stimulation doesn’t allow. The world becomes richer, the layers start to peel back, and you see things for what they really are, in all their wholeness, in all their contradictions, and in all their unfamiliarity. You learn that there are other things you are capable of paying attention to than just what makes the most noise on the surface.
Solitude is necessary for our relationship with God to mature. To hear God’s “still small voice,” you must turn down the surface noise. It is harder and harder for modern society to listen and hear God’s voice. Without that divine voice, we are left feeling lost and alone. Pray for God to give you a comfort level with aloneness. It is nothing to fear, it is the way to a closer walk with God.