Spiritual Discipline of Solitude

A few years ago, the New York Times published an article entitled: “Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family.” In fact, if anything properly describes our American culture it is that we are continually stressed, tired and rushed. We are affected with the affliction of busyness. Busyness can be addictive. We can allow the culture around us to squeeze us into its mold of busyness, as we live rushed, frantic lives. Many of us know no different…it’s just who we are, and the culture we live in. We don’t know any other way to live. And we don’t know any way to properly handle the crazy lives we live, so we just hang on for dear life, running from one thing to another.

Many of you can recall days of your childhood when you played outside all day. You had nowhere to go, so you enjoyed the day making up games. Nowadays, our kids are rushed from one event to another…many parents run their children to school, then to dance, then to soccer practice, then to a birthday party…all in the same day!

Soren Kierkegaard wrote: “The press of busyness is like a charm. Its power swells…it reaches out seeking always to lay hold of ever-younger victims so that childhood or youth are scarcely allowed the quiet and the retirement in which the Eternal may unfold a divine growth.”

So, why are we so busy? To be honest, it’s because we’re drawn to it. John Ortberg said, “The truth is, as much as we complain about it, we are drawn to hurry. It makes us feel important. It It keeps the adrenaline pumping. It means we don’t have to look too closely at the heart or life. It keeps us from feeling our loneliness.”

The remedy to this busyness that distracts us from the real heart issues is solitude. Ortberg describes solitude as “primarily about not doing something. Just as fasting means to refrain from eating, so solitude means to refrain from society.” He goes on to say that solitude helps us get rid of “the stuff we use to keep ourselves propped up, to convince ourselves that we are important or okay. In solitude we have no friends to talk with, no phone calls or meetings, no television sets, no music or books or newspapers to occupy and distract the mind. Each of us would be, in the words of the old hymn, ‘just as I am.’ Neither accomplishments nor resumes nor possessions nor networks would define me—just me and my sinfulness, my desire or lack of desire for God.”

When we practice the discipline of solitude, we are following the example of Jesus. All throughout the gospels, we read where Jesus would go off by Himself to spend time with the Father. It reminded Him of what is really important in life. It kept Him from becoming distracted of His mission.

Solitude is not easily done. We are busy people. That’s why you will have to make a conscious decision to practice this discipline. Let me encourage us to consistently disengage from society so that we can re-engage with God. Here are a few ways we could practice the discipline of solitude:

  • Take five minutes of each hour to be still and quiet, in order reflect on God or a passage of Scripture

  • Take a social media fast for a few days or a week. Instead of spending the time on “social” media, use that time to be alone to pray, read the Bible, or reflect on God and life.

  • Designate a place in your home that is used as your place of solitude. Maybe it’s a chair, a room that is not used very often, or a closet.

  • Go out in nature to spend several hours with God. Perhaps it’s going for a hike, a walk, or just going to sit to be with God.

  • If you don’t read very often, start reading a book that will encourage your walk with Christ. If you read a lot, just spend your normal reading time just being alone with God.

For many people, being alone is scary. But as you practice it, you will find it to be a powerful discipline that God uses to remove the distractions that are hindering you from growing in Christ.

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