A Devotion on Solitude

Find a place to be alone. Get comfortable. Take a deep breath.
Take a few moments just to breathe deeply. To relax.

Read through this Celtic Prayer a few times.

Here I am Lord.
I’ve come to do your will. Here I am Lord.
In your presence I am still.

Take a deep breath.
Take a few moments just to breathe deeply. To relax.

Read John 16: 28-33 (NRSV)

I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.” His disciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

“Spend some time alone every day.” -Dalai Lama

“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” -Henry David Thoreau

“A little while alone in your room will prove more valuable than anything else that could be given to you.”
-Rumi

“Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.” -Paul Tillich

Jesus says to his disciples that each one of them will abandon him. Then he says, “Yet I am not alone.” He acknowledges that there is a difference between loneliness and solitude. Loneliness is our reflection on the absence of something or someone. But solitude is our reflection on the presence of something. In solitude, we can truly reflect on God’s presence in our lives in a way we cannot when surrounded by other noises, thoughts, or people. In solitude, we create space for God to enter. In the passage, Jesus was unafraid when the others trembled. They were fearful when he told them he would not be present with them, physically, for much longer. Though the finally understood what he was saying to them, they felt the sting of loneliness but Jesus understood something else they did not. Jesus knew that he would never be truly alone, because God is always with him. He knew that even after death, the disciples would be able to know him and know the Father.

Read these words from Richard Foster’s The Celebration of Discipline:

Jesus calls us from loneliness to solitude. Our fear of being alone drives us to noise and crowds. We keep up a constant stream of words even if they are inane. But loneliness or clatter are not our only alternatives. We can cultivate our inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear. Loneliness is emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.

If we posses inward solitude we do not fear being alone. In solitude, we embrace our time with God the creator. Neither do we fear being with others, for they do not control us. We are changed and moved by God, instead of by others. There is freedom to be alone, not in order to be away from people but in order to hear the divine whisper better. Indeed, it is much better to have a direction that has been set by communion with the divine.

The fruits of solitude are many. From taking this precious time, we gain increased sensitivity and compassion for others. There comes a new freedom to be with people. There is new attentiveness to their needs, new responsiveness to their hurts. We gain patience, increase in faithfulness, and emit kindness. We gain these fruits as God’s presence increases in our lives and in our time. We gain these fruits because God is dwelling in us.

“How can you hear your soul if everyone is talking?” -Mary Doria Russell

“Settle yourself in solitude and you will come upon God inside yourself.” -Teresa of Avila

“It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers.” -Thomas Merton

Pray…

Lord, teach me to seek out those places where I can be alone with you. Help me to appreciate the lack of people, noise, and busyness, and the opportunity this solitude give me to hear you. In this solitude, let me hear your voice. In this solitude, let me gain a renewed strength with which I can go into the world and show kindness to your creation. Amen.

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