When you think of solitude, what do you picture? Do you see someone alone in a forest, by the water, or on a mountain? Is that person at peace, calm, reflective? Solitude is defined as the state of being alone, but for the purpose of this article we will define it as being alone with God. Ask yourself when the last time was that you were alone with God?
Some might argue that the Bible says, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). It is interesting that the word “alone” in Hebrew is “bad,” and it carries with it the idea of separation. However, remember that we are looking at spending time alone with God. That isn’t bad. The danger is in other things in which we spend time alone. Eve was alone with the devil’s ideas (Gen 3:6) and David was alone with his desires (2 Sam 11:2). Dare I say that the danger is “me” time?
“Me” time comes in so many forms. Behind it is a subtle attitude that we deserve it. Hold on. Doesn’t that sound like what Eve thought? It will be good for me, it looks good, and it will make me wise. I can hear someone say, “You can’t mean I shouldn’t have that vacation I so desperately need.” Will that vacation hinder my time alone with God? Will that book I’m reading, that iPod I’m listening to, that craft I’m working on, that Internet I’m surfing, that game I’m playing distract me from time alone with God? “But you don’t understand,” someone says, “I’m listening to ministry on my iPod, and I’m reading a commentary.” But have you spent time alone with God today? Maybe we find it difficult to connect because we need to disconnect first. I recently read about someone who fell into an open manhole because they were texting on their cell phone instead of looking where they were going. Is that part of the closet principle (Matt 6:6)? I realize the context is that we should not be doing things to be seen of men, and we can pray anywhere, but distractions need to be removed before I can be alone with God. Take the example of the Savior; He sent the multitude away. Then He went up the mountain alone to pray (Matt 14:23). He “departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35).
I’m going to go a bit farther. Did you read your Bible today? “Yes, I did,” you say. Did you pray? “Yes, I did that too.” That’s good. But does that mean you spent time alone with God? Not necessarily. Why not? It is the difference between a monologue and a dialogue. A monologue is one-sided. Spending time alone with God means communion. Read Genesis 18 and notice the dialogue between Abraham and the Lord. From the start Abraham has the right attitude. He bows himself. He worships. He takes the low place. “Pass not away, I pray thee, from Thy servant” (Gen 18:3). He welcomes them. Do we want to spend time with God or are other things more important? Then Abraham works. He washes their feet and feeds them. Are we willing to put in the effort? Then he waits. “He stood by them under the tree, and they did eat” (Gen 18:8). It took time. Are we willing to take the time? Then he walks with Him. “Abraham went with them to bring them on the way” (Gen 18:16). Then there are ten utterances of the Lord to Abraham. Ask yourself the question that Eli asked Samuel, “What is the thing that the Lord hath said unto thee?” (1 Sam 3:17).
Why do we spend so little time alone with God? Is it because of the desire for other things? There can be no doubt as to the desire of the Shulamite. “By night … I sought him whom my soul loveth … I will rise now, and go … I will seek him whom my soul loveth” (Song 3:1-2). She asks the watchmen, “Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?” (Song 3:3). She went a little further and she found him, and she held him, and she would not let him go (Song 3:4). Some couples when they were courting spent hours on the phone. What about later? Notice the change later when the Shulamite awakes and hears her beloved knocking. He longs that she might open the door and let him in, but she does not want to get up. “I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” (Song 5:3). But when she sees his hand, her heart is moved. Then she rises, but it is too late; he is gone. Again she seeks him, even though the watchmen hurt her. Her desire has changed from pleasing herself to being with him. What do we desire? What we spend our time doing will show what we desire. Would that our desire might be like the Psalmist’s, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God” (Psa 42:1).
Okay, you say you want to spend time alone with God. What next? Is there anything coming in between? “Let a man examine himself” (1 Cor 11:28). Is there any sin you need to confess? Remember, “He is in the light” (1 Jn 1:7). If you want to walk with Him, you must be clean (Psa 24:3-4). “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3).
What do you want to talk to God about? Better yet, what does He want to tell you? Open His Word. Ask Him to speak to you. Ask Him to teach you about Himself. Won’t your heart “burn within” you when He talks with you? (Luke 24:32). If you choose that good part, it won’t be taken away from you (Luke 10:42). Be prepared to do some searching (Acts 17:11). Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Write it down. Think about it. Share it with others. Some might say, “I did what you said, but I got nothing.” Is your ear open like a disciple? Ask Him. Talk with Him. Listen to Him. He wants to spend time with you (John 17:24).
When you leave His presence, you won’t be the same. Look at Jacob; he spent the rest of his life limping (Gen 32:25, 31) and leaning (Heb 11:21). Don’t expect your face to be shining (Ex 34:29). It wouldn’t last anyway. But you will be changed (2 Cor 3:18).
And whene’er you leave the silence of that happy meeting place,
You must mind and bear the image of the Master in your face.
(Ellen Lakshmi Gorch)