Seeking solitude

When reading through the four gospels, the fact that Jesus is recorded as one who sought solitary places to pray to the Father always resonates with me. Our Christ is rightly remembered for His active life in serving the crowds that followed Him: above all, His teaching and preaching, but with His proclamation of the good news of the kingdom, He also performed miracles of healing the sick and demon-possessed (Matthew 4:23-24). Perhaps though, we forget that even He needed time alone, respite from the busyness of His ministry and constant care for those around Him.

It isn’t until Jesus heard of the beheading of John the Baptist that we first read that He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place (Matthew 14:13).  Naturally, we can assume that His retreat was intended so He could grieve the loss of John.  Again though, Jesus got up early in the morning and left the house to pray in a solitary place (Mark 1:35; Luke 4:42).  In Mark 6:46 and John 6:15, Jesus heads up on a mountainside to pray, this time preceding His walking on water.  Most memorably, perhaps, is His persistence in the Garden of Gethsemane to seek solitude while He prayed before His arrest and coming crucifixion.  Although some of these passages infer that Jesus was seeking solitude to pray to the Father due to grief, others give no such clue other than He went off to pray alone.  The gospel writers obviously couldn’t record what He prayed in those times, so it’s interesting to think of what words of prayer would our Christ be saying while retreating from everyone.

God’s Word is sufficient for all our questions, so it is safe to assume that the answer to what He’d been praying is not pertinent.  What is apparent though is that Jesus Christ, God in flesh, found it necessary to make time for solitude. There is no man more missional than Christ, no man more compassionate for those who needed Him, no man more qualified to teach and preach the good news of the Gospel and He, especially He, carved out time to be alone with Himself.  That, in itself, is a lesson to live by as we walk through a life that will overwhelm us with its constant calls for our attention.  Pastors, parents, parishioners, and all persons who strive to follow the desires laid out for us in Scripture can be at peace knowing that the One we aim to please also needed solitude to rest, to replenish, to regenerate, to grieve, to prepare, to repair, and to require that of yourself is not selfish because our Lord was (and is) anything but selfish.

I may be attempting to justify my longings to find solitude whenever I can, but reading that Jesus Himself did so comforts me.  I am intentional about keeping a schedule that allows for this time to myself, where I can recharge before engaging in the activities that fill the days.  This is a learned practice, as we don’t come by it naturally.  Some of us are considered introverts, where it is clear that we need time alone and we gladly take it. But for those of us who’d be confessed extroverts, we ought to seek solitude all the same.  It may just be in those scheduled, or spontaneous, moments that God will communicate to us more clearly.  If we’re endlessly bombarded by the noise of busyness, His opportunities to speak into our lives become infrequent and muddled. In silence, we give God our undivided attention.

So yes, of course your children need you, your family needs you, your congregants need you, your friends need you, your employer needs you, and your church needs you, but all of these needed Jesus Christ as well and He modeled, perfectly, that silence and solitude needs you also.  Beware of the busyness that can rob you of your solitude and be insistent on setting time aside alone, undistracted by outside influences, with only the conversation in your mind about whatever thoughts and ponderings present themselves amidst the quietness.  In those moments, pray quietly, think quietly, listen and contemplate what Jesus may have been saying to Himself all those times he sought solitude and found it.

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