We’ve earlier seen how true Sabbath rest is a function of delight, wonder and presence. Here we’ll look at the importance of solitude in our rest.
Looking at the Bible, I don’t think anyone understood this better than Jesus. Jesus personally dealt with the constant onslaught of society, which was stressful, draining and often overwhelming (sound familiar?)
And in light of these troubles, Jesus turned regularly to solitude (Luke 5:16). Jesus often sought to be alone after performing miracles (Mark 1:35); while grieving (Matthew 14:13); before choosing His Apostles (Luke 6:12-13) and notably before the great torment of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-44).
Sometimes He invited His closest friends into a sort of communal solitude (Mark 6:31-32) — a cell group retreat would be a good modern comparison — where they could find quiet solace from the world, hot on their heels.
Why was time alone such a big part of Jesus’ life? I don’t believe the Lord fancied loneliness for the sake of it. Instead Jesus’ solitude helped him stay true to His identity and purpose while on Earth.
SOLITUDE BRINGS US INTO SABBATH REST
Despite eternity being planted in our hearts, believers often fail to see past the worries of today, robbing us of the delight, wonder and presence of God which come with true restedness. With Sabbath rest stolen from us, we desperately seek other forms of “rest” in the empty caverns of career, materialism and worldly achievement.
In the church, though we are loosed from the chains of material ambition, we struggle to be still. Many of us pack our schedules with meetings and appointments months in advance. We call it accountability. Mentoring. Equipping.
After all, a good Christian must surely be a busy one.
A recent study involving 18,000 people from 134 countries published by the BBC suggests that solitude could be the key to rest — regardless of introversion or extroversion.
The article concludes: “Many people, it seems, would like to have more time to rest but perhaps it’s not the total hours resting or working that we need to consider, but the rhythms of our work, rest and time, with and without others.”
That sounds a lot like God’s Sabbath rhythm to me.
Choose today to purposefully enter into the Sabbath rest that Jesus provides. Use this time to connect with God in prayer knowing that Jesus frees you from the insatiable need to strive. The habit of Sabbath must flow from the rested heart of Sabbath that comes from knowing Jesus.
SOLITUDE DRAWS US FROM BUSYNESS’ ALLURE
Jesus wasn’t particularly fond of simply doing stuff. Knowing His true purpose and identity, He only did things that were necessary in fulfilling His mission on earth. He held all else loosely. He was never caught up with the cares of the world, and was thus able to live his mission with astonishing clarity.
A favourite hymn of mine describes what happens when we tune ourselves to God in solitude:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
Think of the parable of the sower, who sowed some seeds which fell on thorns that grew and choked them to death (Matthew 13:7). Living in a prosperous city like Singapore, many of our hearts have soil with thorns like the need to strive and the deceitfulness of wealth (Matthew 13:22).
Most of these thorny weeds have been implanted in the soil of our hearts by the societal culture we grew up in. Regular solitude as a spiritual discipline allows God into the desolate fields of our hearts to uproot the weeds that are killing us, and irrigate that which bears useful fruit.
Jesus does not need more Marthas in this world. He calls for more Marys who choose the one thing Jesus calls necessary.
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42).
So in the decisions of life whether big and small — let’s choose Jesus.
SOLITUDE FOCUSES US ON GOD’S GREAT PURPOSE
God doesn’t just take our eyes off dim things — He fixes them on glorious light.
In the solitude of prayer before His arrest (John 17), Jesus surrendered Himself in obedience to the Father. It was God the Father who supplied the strength Jesus needed for His final earthly mission. The Father “sanctified Jesus in truth” as Jesus asked that His disciples be sanctified likewise, that though they remain in the world, that they would live for God’s higher purposes.
Amazingly, Jesus continues to intercede for you this very day. His Word assures us that He is always with us, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
So here’s the thing: With God, our solitude isn’t really solitude. It’s time alone with God.
God’s presence frees us from the false pressure of constantly doing stuff. He extends an invitation to us, to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear His heart. He pours His love into the aching parts of our souls, where our cups are filled.
Seated at His table, where there’s a place with each of our names on it, our cups overflow with streams of living water. So even if you tried, you couldn’t possibly keep all the good water to yourself. Because Jesus now calls us to walk, bringing His presence and water into all the dry places of our world.
In the church, though we are loosed from the chains of material ambition, we struggle to be still. Many of us pack our schedules with meetings and appointments months in advance. We call it accountability. Mentoring. Equipping. After all, a good Christian must surely be a busy one.
Strength renewed, our mission isn’t to rejoin the rat race, but to run alongside our despairing, desperate friends in the rat race, pointing them to the better way.
It’s a road, narrow and rough, but filled with grace and beautiful. We are meant to call our sick, anxious world out of darkness and into to the wondrous light of God’s eternal kingdom, where unforced rhythms of His grace carry us through.
Maybe you struggle to see that now, for your life, school or workplace — maybe even for Singapore. But don’t worry, because everything will be OK.
For when you truly allow God into the garden of your soul, He opens your heart and mind to a brave new world far beyond what we could ever ask for or imagine. Find your desolate place, and let Him be your Sabbath today. God is not done with you.
He is with you. He is for you.