In these times of social distancing, it’s easy to feel lonely and forgotten.
Cut off from our loved ones and even just acquaintances, we may feel restless and unfulfilled.
But what would it look like to use this time to practice the spiritual discipline of solitude?
Solitude is a spiritual practice we don’t discuss very often, but it’s an important discipline, along with fasting, prayer, worship, and time in the Word.
God calls us to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, ESV).
Sometimes it’s in the moments of silence—and yes, even deep loneliness—that He can speak to our hearts most clearly.
So how can we use our days of quarantine and isolation to pursue deeper communion with our Father?
Jesus provided an excellent example of solitude in the Gospel of Mark.
“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves” (Mark 6:30-32, ESV).
We can learn several key principles about the spiritual discipline of solitude from Jesus’ actions in these verses.
1. Solitude often comes after a time of busyness.
The disciples returned to Jesus after a time of ministry. They had traveled around the region for some time, preaching repentance and baptizing many in His name.
They had “done and taught” many things over the course of their travels (Mark 6:30), and they were tired. So Jesus drew them away from their work, calling them to step back from their busyness for a few moments.
How many of us have felt life slow down in the last several weeks?
Most of us are still able to work from home, but we’re not feeling the pressure—or having the chance—to interact with dozens of people each day.
Even as we feel lonely, we need to recognize that this time is an important opportunity to draw away from the busyness that we often press upon each other, especially in the American culture.
2. Solitude is healthy and necessary.
Jesus was the one who called His disciples away to solitude. In fact, He commanded them to take time away from the crowds to rest.
Needing solitude is not a weakness or a failing. It’s an integral part of our humanity and our relationship with God, and it should be a part of our normal routines.
Jesus knew that His disciples would need time to step away after their season of intense ministry, so He provided a space and place for them to be alone. You could say that He planned a retreat!
How is this time of solitude needed in your life? Take a step back and evaluate your priorities; try to understand why God has placed this season in your life to benefit your spiritual growth.
3. Solitude is a time away from crowds and work.
“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while,” Jesus told His followers (Mark 6:31).
His call to solitude was not a command to get away and work somewhere else; it was a command to set all else aside and simply be.
The disciples were doubtless energized by everything they had seen and done, and they may even have been ready to work more. But Jesus wanted them to experience a brief pause that would help them reflect and grow.
Are you still striving in the midst of this silence, or are you allowing the distractions to slip away? Are you burying your worries in work, or are you honoring God’s request for you to leave the crowds behind?
4. Solitude should be sought as a deeper experience of Jesus’ presence.
Finally, the most important part of the disciples’ spiritual retreat into solitude was the fact that Jesus was with them. He ushered them into peace and solitude, and He stayed with them to make sure they ate and rested.
The most vital piece of any season of solitude is a deep seeking of God’s presence. We should be leaving behind the crowds and distractions in order to listen to Him more closely!
How are you using this time of quarantine to deepen your relationship with Christ? Are you seeking His voice and His presence and welcoming the opportunity to put aside all other things to pursue Him?
May believers around the world be enriched by this season of solitude, however unwelcome it may seem at first, and may our joy in Christ spill over to others when we see them again.