"If a man wants to be used by God, he cannot spend all of his time
with people." -A. W. Tozer
Jesus was One Who, better than any other, knew the importance of
solitude. That is why we see Him repeatedly, going off into a desert
place, alone. Following, are four results of time spend in such
solitude . . .
Realization of Self
When you’re in a quiet place away from other people, suddenly you
can’t blame your schedule, your peers, or your family for your
frustration or failure. That’s why people avoid being alone. That is
why they keep the TV on, the radio loud, people around. They don’t
want to come face to face with themselves.
Compassion for Others
After receiving revelation of myself, I am no longer as hard on
you. The reason people come down on others, judge others, find fault
with others is because they have spent little time alone in the
presence of the Lord — for if they did, like Isaiah, who spend the
first five chapters of the book which bears his name saying, ‘Woe unto
you’; ‘Woe unto you’; ‘Woe unto you’; — after seeing the Lord high and
lifted up, like Isaiah they would say, ‘Woe is me. I am a man of
unclean lips,’ (Isaiah 6:5).
That is why sometimes one of the best
things we can do for people is to absent ourselves from them. When
we’re constantly with people, we have a tendency to find fault. But
when we spend a season in solitude, after truly seeing ourselves, we
emerge with greater compassion for others.
Transformation of Society
Society is transformed not so much by people picketing, marching,
or even voting. I suggest that when you study history — particularly
European history — you cannot help but notice that monarchs,
potentates, and powers were moved by monks — men who chose lives of
solitude. Withdrawing from society, they changed the face of Europe
Regarding society as a shipwreck from which each
individual must swim for his life, the desert fathers knew they were
helpless to do any good for others as long as they themselves
floundered about in the wreckage. These were men who believed that to
allow oneself to drift along passively accepting the tenets and values
of society was to court disaster. And once they got a foothold on
solid ground, they discovered they had not only the power, but also
the obligation to pull their entire culture to safety as well.
Consequently, as decades passed, philosophers and thinkers, rulers and
politicians journeyed to the desert in order to hear from them and be
instructed by them. Thus, Europe was transformed by men who realized
the best way to stand on solid ground was through moments, years, and
decades spent seeking God and living a solitary life.
Preparation For Ministry
When did the Word of God come to John? When he was in the
wilderness. When was Moses called to lead the people of Israel? After
spending 40 years in the desert. When did Jesus begin His public
ministry? After spending 40 days in solitude.
There is something about
solitude which is absolutely essential in the lives of spiritual men,
for, because the Lord has chosen to speak in a still, small voice
which is all too often drowned out in everyday activity, it is in
solitude that His voice is heard most clearly (I Kings 19:12).
all well and good,’ you may be thinking, ‘but withdrawing to the
desert is simply not practical for me.’ That being the case for most
of us, there is a way in which every one of us can practice a life of
daily solitude. That way is silence. Silence can be the private desert
you carry with you wherever you go. But it’s not easy.
speaking an average of 40-60,000 words a day, the average person will
receive 1500 messages every day from Madison Avenue, saying, ‘Buy me;
taste me; drive me.’ Whether generated by Coca-Cola or Cadillac a
constant barrage of noise is hurled at us over billboard, radio, and
television. As a result, the value of words is diminished in our
society. But this problem is not ours alone.
Concerning much talk, an
Early Church Father wrote the following: When the door of a steam bath
is left open, the heat escapes. Likewise, even though everything it
says may indeed be good, the soul’s cognizance of God is dissipated
through the door of speech.
Without the Holy Spirit to keep its
understanding free of fantasy, the intellect pours out a welter of
confused thoughts. Ideas of value always shun verbosity. Being foreign
to confusion and fantasy, timely silence is precious, for it is
nothing less than the mother of the wisest of our thoughts. ‘That
which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen
with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled,
that which we have seen and heard, now we declare unto you,’ said
John, ‘that you might have fellowship with us. And truly our
fellowship is with the Father, and His Lord, Jesus Christ,’ (I John
1:1-2). John shared freely — but he did not share that which he had
Could it be that the reason our sharing is sometimes not
received or impacting is due to the fact that we are speaking that
which we ourselves have not touched, heard, or seen? Could it be that
the reason we have not touched, heard, or seen is because we have not
been in solitude? And could it be that we have not been in solitude
because we have not desired to pay the price of silence? ‘Learn to be
quiet,’ said Paul (I Thessalonians 4:11). ‘Let every man be quick to
hear and slow to speak,’ James echoes (1:19).
In Luke’s Gospel, as I
see the blossoming of John’s ministry, and — to an infinitely greater
degree — the ministry of Jesus, I realize that both ministries were
birthed in times of silence. May the Lord call us into a greater
understanding of solitude and silence — that we might speak all the
more effectively, and live in true intimacy with the Father.