“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NIV)
The essence of solitude is to leave people and sensory distractions behind and enter into a time alone with God. You may respond, “But are we not called to be in community with fellow believers?” Yes. However, solitude does not mean we exit community. It means that we imitate the practice of Jesus and withdraw for a time to exclusively be alone with God, similar to the way in which we spend exclusive time with our closest loved ones. It means that we give God time and space that is not in competition with social contact, noise or stimulation.
Is this difficult to do? Absolutely. We live in a culture that is very networked and busy. Achieving this time with God may require us to set it apart in our demanding schedules. Is it worth it? Again, yes. Setting time apart for solitude helps us to see who we are when productivity and recognition fall away and God is the only one watching us. We are stripped of the approval of others and placed into the presence of God who gives us our identity in him. For Jesus at Gethsemane, this meant casting aside the urgings of his disciples and other followers who wanted him to claim military and political power in Jerusalem. Through the time he spent wrestling in prayer, he firmly set his eyes on the cross, the next step in fulfilling the true purpose of his life.
sometimes brings us into God’s presence and fills us with the joy of the Lord. Yet, it can also be a time of darkness as we uncover thoughts and feelings we were not aware of before. It can be a time of sensing God’s absence more than his presence. Know that these experiences are completely normal and have been noted by many well-known practitioners of solitude throughout the history of the church. An experience such as this can be just as important as a joy filled one. It can lead us to make changes in our lives or strengthen our perseverance in Christ. So as you journey through this season of Lent, I encourage you to set some time aside and find a low sensory space for being in the presence of our awesome God.