The Practice of Solitude and Silence
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. That means we’ve been in pandemic and quarantine mode for an entire year now. Isn’t that incredible? I don’t know how it’s been for you but I feel like this past year has gone by both really fast and, at the same time, painfully slow. On this anniversary of sorts, I thank God for watching over our church and our families during these trying times. I remember that first Sunday, March 15th, when we had to close the sanctuary for in-person worship service and we pre-recorded the service. That morning, I wrote the first devotional for what would become our weekly email/newsletter on how strangely quiet it was at the church and how the time might be an opportunity to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Little did we know that the pandemic would continue on this long.
I think one of the obvious impacts of the pandemic is that most of us have had more time to slow down and be still, probably more than we would like. While the social isolation has been difficult, there have been times where I have genuinely appreciated the opportunity to slow the pace of life: to not have that meeting in-person, to not have to go out with family and friends, to not run so many errands or fill the calendar with so many activities for myself and the kids. Slowing is not something that comes easy for us. With the speed and pervasiveness of technology, communication, entertainment, and social media, and our desire to squeeze the most out of every moment, we often live at a pace that stretches and stresses us physically, emotionally, and spiritually with the constant noise of the world in our ears.
One of the spiritual disciplines which I don’t think we practice enough of then is the discipline of solitude and silence. Solitude and silence is where we intentionally take time to withdraw from human interaction, from daily life activities, and the ongoing demands placed on us to be alone with God, to pray, to listen, and to center our hearts on Him. It is not simply downtime where we take a nap, read a book, or do some gardening, although those things could be good to do as well. Solitude and silence creates space for us to draw near to the Lord that He might be our source of strength, compassion, and wisdom. Jesus modeled this as He practiced solitude and silence in His life in order to remain focused on His purpose and to grow in intimacy with His Heavenly Father. In Mark 1:35 it 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.” Luke 5:15-16 says “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Solitude and silence with God is one of the ways we find our true identity in the Lord. When we are able to disengage from the world, we can often see and hear better, and gain a fresh perspective on our lives. Thomas Merton said “Not all men are called to be hermits, but all men need enough silence and solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally. When that inner voice is not heard, when man cannot attain to the spiritual peace that comes from being perfectly at one with his true self, his life is always miserable and exhausting. For he cannot go on happily for long unless he is in contact with the springs of spiritual life which are hidden in the depths of his own soul.” So as we continue to go through this pandemic, remember to care for your soul by spending time with the Lord in solitude and silence, allowing Him (and not the world) to shape who you are and what you do.
Have a good week!