by Shawn Simic
Last year I was introduced to the practice of silence and solitude for the first time. It may be more accurate to say that I was forced into it for four hours for a school assignment. Honestly, I was dreading it. I could not imagine being alone and quiet for four whole hours. However, I found I was not alone, God was there and it turned out to be an amazing experience of prayer and thanksgiving. It turned out to be a major help to finding clarity on my personal calling at the time.
Some of you may be familiar with the practice of Silence & Solitude. This is the practice of getting away from the busyness and noise of everyday life to set aside a time that is just you and God. This practice is so important because we live in a noisy world filled with so many distractions. God does not often go out of his way to get our attention. It is only when we intentionally set aside time to be with God (solitude) and listen to his voice (silence) that we can begin to listen in ways that will help us to discern the Holy Spirit’s voice, God’s will, and our part in the kingdom of God.
This kind of alone time with God is something that comes from practice. In the Gospels, we see take this kind of time frequently. Jesus went away to be alone with God to pray. It is in this time that we can be real before God and we can listen to what God has to say to us. Let’s read about the last time Jesus does so in this Scripture.
32They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” 35And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”
We really get to see Jesus’ support system in practice. We see he brought all the disciples (minus Judas) to Gethsemane. He asks them to stay and pray except he asked Peter, James and John to continue on with him. He has his group that he spends time with, and within that group he has a core that he is able to show how distressed he is.
It is important that we have trusted people in our day to day life (this may be your church family). However, it is even more critical to make sure you have a support system within that family for when you get distressed and agitated. Although Jesus had these support systems in place, they could not follow him everywhere. Jesus knew the next 24 hours were going to be indescribable as far as how mentally, emotionally, and physically painful the events would be. Just imagine if you knew you were going to suffer and die in only one days time. In times like this no matter how much support you have, it will leave you empty. You need God, and God alone. Only to God could Jesus share his true fear and doubts. And only in God was able to find the strength he needed to continue. We will likely never have to face such ordeals. But the truth remains that we will come to points in our lives that require strength and company that only God can provide. That’s why we need time with God.
Activity: Solitude & Silence
Try to get out into nature away from as many people, unnatural noises, and distractions as possible. For a first time, try to aim for at least 1 hour. Don’t bring anything with you to do – no phone, no books, no journal, not even a Bible. Bring only a 3×5 card and pen to carry in case something comes into your mind that you need to put down so you’ll remember. Just be alone and available to whatever God may “say” to you.
After your time with God reflect on the below questions:
- Was it easy or difficult to spend time in silence and solitude? Why?
- What expectations did you bring into the time? Were those expectations met?
- Did you sense God saying anything to you?
- How might practicing solitude on a regular basis impact your life?
I hope that you met God in your time of Silence & Solitude. Continue to find this time to get away. It is this time of practice that will prove critical when life brings you to a place where you find you need more than your support system can provide.
Conclude this time with a prayer to God.
Prayer: Giver of all good gifts, help me in making the time to listen for your voice in my life, that I may be more like Jesus who prayed, “Not my will, but yours.”