For some of us the idea of solitude or silence seems more like torture or something to avoid at all cost. Take solitary confinement; isn’t that a serious restriction? Most of us try to avoid feeling lonely or isolated. Why would anyone actually choose to be silent or be alone? On the other hand, we also know that we do need rest, and life requires times to think, ponder, consider. Maybe God can use these lonely times for good; have you ever thought if that? Perhaps the ticket for growing our faith and our connection with him might just lie in using lonely times for good – through silence and solitude. Check into some of the ideas here and pick what works for you to enliven and enjoy your alone times by being with God.
Trying to understand God and what this world we live in is all about requires us to think about big questions about life and why we are here. By taking time to process these big thoughts and checking the Bible we gain a better grasp of who God is and who he wants us to be (also see the Purpose section in RezLife). Sometimes we are forced to be alone and sometimes we seek to be alone. Our personality type often nudges us toward choosing one of these: introvert or extrovert. (Check out the differences under Dig Deeper)
While our personality type may influence our daily choices, we also know that Jesus had a pattern in his life of spending time alone to hear and talk to the Father. (Check out Mark 1:35). Jesus rises early in the midst of a busy schedule to spend time in prayer. We see the same pattern in David’s life. (You may know or have even recited something he wrote: Psalm 23, the Shepherd’s Song). Before David was a great king, he was a sheep farmer who spent lots of time alone while watching rather dumb animals. He wrote a lot of poems and prayers. He spent much of his time talking to the Lord. These inflicted alone times were used by David to cultivate his relationship with God. This early practice as a teen continued throughout his life so much so that he has been called “a man after God’s own heart.”
For you, there may be times you are forced to be alone. While moving to a new location, you may find yourself sitting in a car driving hundreds of miles, or you may have to sit in an office waiting for paperwork to be processed before you can get that ID or class schedule. Maybe you’ve had to sit in a sparse motel room or new bedroom with not much to entertain you before your family’s household goods arrive. Rather than just feeling alone you can use these times of forced solitude to try your hand at praying, meditating, journaling and reading the Bible like the military kid in this story:
It was time to load up the minivan and head to our new home. To say the least I was given a restricted amount of space for my clothes and only my backpack to stuff a few things at my feet. My sister had her backpack filled with her toys and books. I wanted certain things to make it safely to our new location. My Club Beyond leader gave me a lightweight Bible and a cool notebook. She challenged me to write some prayers down and try reading a Psalm a day and to check out one of the “Gospels.” So after the house was emptied and the truck was closed up, I made sure the new Bible and notebook were stuffed in my backpack (along with other important items like my cellphone, MP3 player and make up).
I tried it. I put my earphones in and put on something really low to block the noise in the car, and I started to write and to read. This forced time of being stuck in the car with my family and our cat became my time of solitude. I felt like I could see David tending those sheep and talking to God. Sure, when we got to the motels on the drive I was ready to put on my swimsuit and get out by the pool and to check out what was on the TV. But the daily time of writing out prayers and thoughts was really meaningful. So I decided to try to do this as much as possible from here on out. Often my friends can’t talk or my family is busy. I need to think through my feelings, my doubts, my worries. If I take those concerns and turn them into prayers – conversations with God, we are connecting. And just to make sure I don’t do all the talking, I am learning to read some Bible verses and to sit still. I am learning to meditate.
Now don’t go to sleep on me! Meditate is a fancy word for pondering. My Club Leader says it is like a cow chewing on their cud. I read a few verses slowly and then I rethink the verse. I turn what it is saying over and over in my head. I ask questions and try to figure out what it means to me. Is there something there for me to apply to my life? Sometimes people call this reflection. Try it out.
This is the Bible verse I talked about in the Introduction. David in the Old Testament of the Bible was taking care of the family sheep in some very isolated locations. While doing this he started singing songs and writing poems to God. He even picked up a musical instrument called a lyre (a small hand-held harp) and passed away the lonely times with these poems. We get to read many of them and see what God could be saying about our situation. Remember the location where the sheep roamed could be quite dangerous and dry. David’s job was to protect the sheep from predators or from other harm. He also had to get them to fields that had grass for them to eat. The people during this time relied on the sheep for wool (textiles), milk or meat (food) and even a few select ones for offerings (their religion). Sheep needed grass, water and protection. They needed the shepherd to direct them and protect them. David takes his job and, in reflection and solitude, applies it to what God does for us.
“Do all this in prayer asking for Gods help. Pray on every occasion as the Spirit leads" Ephesians 6:18 Take time to be alone and pray.
— Rezilient Life (@RezilientLife) May 28, 2013
Oh God, it is so hard sometimes to be still and to listen to you and not to let all the things around me distract me or pull me from you. I do want to get to know you better. I know I should read your Word and spend time talking to you.
Please forgive me when I seem to ignore you or push your Bible to the back of my shelves or locker. I know I have so much to learn. Help me please to take small steps in carving out time with you alone and being quiet.
Thank you for the Bible. Thank you for the Church and for your people who point me to you. Help me to listen and to listen correctly. Please protect me from deceptions and lies that may lead me away from you. Please wrap me in your loving arms and tell me what I need to hear and to understand. And when I feel lonely or afraid, may your Holy Spirit remind me of the verses I have read about you being there and your loving care of me. I know I am not alone. You are with me. Like David with all those sheep, I will trust you and let you take me through the valleys, the darkness, the hard times. And I will let you be honored by what I do and say.
A word you may have heard before when it comes to meditating is ruminate. This word, as defined by Webster’s dictionary means:
1 : to go over in the mind repeatedly and often casually or slowly
2 : to chew repeatedly for an extended period
1 : to chew again what has been chewed slightly and swallowed : chew the cud
2 : to engage in contemplation : Reflect
Not only that but the etymology of it (a really long word which just means origins) is this:
1533, "to turn over in the mind," also "to chew cud" (1547), from L. ruminatus, pp. of ruminare "to chew the cud, turn over in the mind," from rumen (gen. ruminis) "gullet," of uncertain origin.
Isn’t that cool! A word that is acitvely used today to mean meditate, contemplate and think over actually means “to chew cud.” Ruminate on that!
What are the things in your life that feed your soul – waters the tree God desires to make of you? (Psalm 1) Write a list or your thoughts in your journal and try to do one this week. Journaling is one thing that people of all types and walks of life have consistently identified as “food for the soul.” It will help you reflect on God’s Word and the state of your heart. If you think you need some accountability, ask a trusted friend, leader, or parent to check in with you every day. They don’t have to read it; they can just glance to see it’s there!
“Happy are those
who reject the advice of evil people,
who do not follow the example of sinners
or join those who have no use for God.
Instead, they find joy in obeying the Law of the Lord,
and they study it day and night.
They are like trees that grow beside a stream,
that bear fruit at the right time,
and whose leaves do not dry up.
They succeed in everything they do.
But evil people are not like this at all;
they are like straw that the wind blows away.
Sinners will be condemned by God
and kept apart from God's own people.
The righteous are guided and protected by the Lord,
but the evil are on the way to their doom.”
Perhaps you have never thought about whether you are introverted or extroverted. A lot of people don’t start to notice that about themselves until later in life. Neither is better than the other. There are some very important people in history from both sides. The fact is, the world needs both! But it is important that you know which you are. If you don’t it’s easy to get run down and irritable because you are not properly caring for yourself. On the flipside it is easy to ignore setting aside specific time for yourself, God, or even someone special in your life because you are too busy running around. Check out this quiz and see which you are!
Isaiah 49:8-13 – Another look at this Old Testament lifestyle of solitude, and God’s restoration of his people through it.
Mark 1:29-39 – Jesus sets an example for us from the pattern in his own life.
Joshua 1:8-10 –God tells his people to make sure to study his Law daily – day and night.
Acts 17:10-12 While the young church was growing, there was a group of people in Berea (village in modern-day Greece) that had a reputation for knowing God’s Word.
Psalm 131 -A great one to see ourselves wrapped in God’s loving arms.
Psalm 1 -A challenge to see how reading the Bible can make you be like a strong tree that can survive if not thrive in all places. Choices we make have a huge impact on our outlook and life.
Psalm 119:47-48 – Another song with a commitment to study and to meditate.
Psalm 46 - Stop fighting (cease striving, be still).
Zechariah 2:13 - A request to be silent and wait for the Lord’s arrival.
Psalm 77 - A distress call.
Some of us need a video or song to help us begin pondering Scripture and our relationship with God. If you are one of those people, check out this video. If you want more, there are some great suggestions with more songs by Mercy Me or other bands like Casting Crowns or Citizen Way.
This deer takes chewing the cud seriously! Just makes me glad we meditate on things in our mind rather than our mouths:
Here’s another one of a camel. That jaw has got some serious range to it!