These days an entire industry has formed around helping people gain “followers.” Articles, books, and blog posts give tips on how to increase your audience and manage your brand. While we may not run a business that relies on those statistics, we can still fall into the trap of measuring our self-worth by what others think of us. We worry about our number of followers on social media. We check to see how many people responded to our cleverly worded posts and carefully edited photos. The spiritual discipline of solitude dethrones the cultural idol of seeking a following. It brings freedom because we remember that our worthiness is in our identity in Christ, not in other people.
the need for solitude
When you choose to spend time in solitude, without being accessible or available to others, you are left with just yourself and God. Solitude provides an opportunity to assess where you’re finding your worth. If a few moments of solitude leave you itching to check your phone or e-mail, you may need to ask the Lord to help you determine if you’re truly finding your value in Him.
To others who want something from you, solitude might look and feel like you are not being productive. You yourself might feel you are wasting valuable time doing something that feels outdated and could be misunderstood by most people. If solitude feels like this to you, it will really seem strange to those around you. But over time, as they see the freedom and peace that the practice of solitude brings to your life, they’ll begin to understand it.
When we choose to spend time in solitude, we declare that our identity is found in Christ, not others. It brings freedom from being overly concerned with what other people think of us. Solitude allows us to retune ourselves, reminding our hearts that we belong to God and He loves us more than we can imagine. It is acknowledging that while the world’s first priority is popularity, accomplishments, or visible productivity, God has called us to better and deeper things. He has called us to Himself.
jesus' practice of solitude
Since solitude is not a practice most of us are familiar with, it can feel overwhelming. Thankfully, Jesus Himself modeled solitude for us during His earthly ministry. Jesus had three years to lay the foundation for the church. With that responsibility on His shoulders, Jesus often prioritized solitude.
Mark paints the picture of Jesus’ solitude for us very vividly: “Rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed,” (Mark 1:35 esv). Why would Jesus, who is fully God, practice solitude? He did it for the same reason we should do it—for connection with the Father.
Have you ever seen someone every day and still felt frustratingly disconnected from them, but then you get to grab coffee with them and suddenly your connection is better than ever? Jesus showed us that our relationship with God works this way too. We need time alone with God where it is quiet and we can focus on our relationship with Him.
In the still and quiet place there is freedom, because God will meet us there. For many of us, the idea of finding regular times of solitude seems impossible. Take heart. God will provide a way. Solitude doesn’t have to be an everyday occurrence. Maybe once a week during the kids’ naptime you can find solitude, or maybe you can ignore your phone one day a week during your commute home. For many of us, any time of solitude will require planning and help from others. Put this event in your calendar. Hire a sitter. Turn down other opportunities. Do what it takes to invest in solitude.
the reward of solitude
Solitude can honestly seem like a lot of trouble. It can be awkward at first. So why do it? The reward of solitude is worth any frustration or awkwardness.
That reward is that you learn to walk in the freedom Christ has provided for you.
When you spend time in solitude, your close connection with God is rekindled and you are able to see yourself the way He sees you. You can address sin and enjoy a greater sense of freedom. Solitude allows you to reconnect with Christ and remember who you are in Him.
Why is solitude such a challenging practice in our culture? What benefits would a regular practice of solitude bring to your life?
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