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What Jesus Said About the Importance of Solitude

Six examples from the Bible about finding perspective and power from spending some time alone

The power of solitude

In recent months, some of us have led more solitary lives than we’d like. But enforced seclusion doesn’t necessarily have the same benefits as intentional solitude. Seclusion can be unnerving; solitude, rightly done, can be energizing and empowering.

The words and life of Jesus, “who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, NIV), show us at least six things about the power of solitude:

1)  Solitude brings rewards.
Jesus told His followers, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6, NIV).

This doesn’t mean that we should avoid public prayer entirely, but that the greatest rewards belong to the person who seeks and spends time alone with the Father.

Jesus said more about solitude than we see in His recorded words, because His actions speak at least as loudly on the subject. His example underscores the place solitude played in His life. . . and suggests the place it should have in ours.

2)  Solitude is a worthy priority.
Mark’s Gospel says, “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).

Jesus could’ve prayed anywhere, of course—and He often did pray in public, among crowds, where others could hear and perhaps participate. But the Gospels show us that He made solitude a priority. If He did, shouldn’t we?

3)  Solitude provides perspective.
Luke describes one occasion when “Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, He called His disciples to Him and chose 12 of them, whom He also designated apostles” (Luke 6:12-13, NIV).

Facing a big decision such as which of His many followers to choose as His closest disciples, Jesus sought solitude and spent the night in prayer and clearly found the perspective He needed for such a decision.

4)  Solitude aids recovery from activity.
As Jesus’ reputation spread, Luke says, “crowds of people came to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:15-16, NIV).

Too often, we keep doing and doing, going and going, like the Energizer bunny, to the point of illness or collapse. Jesus knew that solitude is an antidote to activity, aiding a return from chronic “human doing” to our created state of “human being.”

5)  Solitude heals.
Matthew’s Gospel records: “So John [the Baptist] was beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a tray and given to the girl, who took it to her mother. Later, John’s disciples came for his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus what had happened.

As soon as Jesus heard the news, He left in a boat to a remote area to be alone” (Matthew 14:10-13, NLT). Solitude is a healing place where God can reach us and help us all the more because we’re alone with Him.

6)  Solitude prepares for the impossible.
Luke describes Jesus’ actions as He faced the most daunting episode of His life: “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and His disciples followed Him. On reaching the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done’” (Luke 22:39-42, NIV).

What a lesson there is in those few verses. Jesus wanted His closest friends (and their prayer support) nearby, even as He sought solitude and communion with His Father. We also may discover, when facing an overwhelming task, that solitude empowers us to surrender, persevere and find strength we didn’t know we had.

Have you found reward and recovery, perspective and power and preparation in solitude?

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