Solitude in Small Moments
By Sarah Cooper
Solitude. What do you think of when you hear the word solitude? What thoughts come to your mind when you think about solitude as a spiritual discipline? Does solitude make you feel sad, angry, afraid, lonely, or secluded? Or, does it make you feel peaceful, free, and undisturbed? The definition of solitude is “the state of being alone.” Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline describes solitude as, “a spiritual discipline that we should obtain for spiritual growth.” Foster states that Jesus calls us from a state of loneliness to solitude. Loneliness causes an inner emptiness inside us, but solitude can bring inner fulfillment.
Think of all the times in the Bible when Jesus experienced solitude. He was in the desert alone for 40 days before the start of His ministry. He spent a night in the hills before He chose His disciples. He went to a boat to be alone after John the Baptist died. After feeding the five thousand, He went to the hills to be by Himself. Before His death, He sought solitude in the garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus knew that it was important to have silence and solitude. Being alone and in silence can be very difficult. It makes me think of the silence that comes before getting to sleep. This is a time where many people, myself included, think about all the things we have to do the next day and what we didn’t get done. I often think about the choices I have made at work and the arguments I have had with my kids and husband. There are times I can go to bed feeling pretty good about myself, and other times when I feel like a complete failure in every aspect of my life.
If I don’t purposefully focus on God when I am alone, my mind and spirit don’t automatically go there. This is why solitude is a spiritual discipline. It is hard! It makes me angry when I think about the disciples sleeping while Jesus wanted them to pray; yet, I can’t get out of bed fifteen minutes earlier to focus on Him.
Richard Foster writes, “solitude is more a state of mind and heart than it is a place.”
When I think of solitude in its greatest moments, I imagine being alone in nature and the stillness and quiet that I usually find there. I picture myself on a paddle-board far out in the ocean. I hear the water and the birds, but I don’t hear the “noise” of the normal environment I live in. I remember being at the top of a mountain and looking at the vast country, feeling the breeze in my hair and the sun on my face. I picture myself walking around my neighborhood in the dark, with the brilliance of the stars shining above me. For me, when I am alone and surrounded by nature, it is easy to have solitude. I can focus my thoughts on God and His love for me. I can worship Him and feel His peace. My thoughts don’t wander, and I don’t focus on anything but God’s creation.
So, how can we, as believers, make this solitude of the heart more constant? How can we create these times of solitude in our everyday lives?
We should all take advantage of the small solitudes that happen in our everyday lives. It may be in the early morning while drinking a cup of coffee. It may be on the way to a job or to school. Solitude can take place in the car during rush hour. It can happen on a short walk before bedtime. It can happen during a lunch break, or when the children are napping. The point is, we all have small moments throughout the day where we can choose to be silent and focus on God. Richard Foster warns that these small moments during the day are being wasted. We are talking on the phone, listening to music, or thinking about the plans for the day. Instead, we should use these moments of solitude to be still in our minds and focus on God.
Write This Way: In these days of Lent I encourage you as I encourage myself, to create moments of solitude. When you find yourself in moments of silence, focus on God and His love for you. Try and be still and feel His presence wash over you. As Teresa of Avila so eloquently states, “Settle yourself in solitude and you will come upon Him in yourself.”
About the Author:
Sarah Cooper is a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) at a family practice in Middletown, IN. She has been married for 21 years and has two boys, aged 14 and 12. She has been attending Commonway since the very beginning of its existence and has been a Christian for as long as she can remember. She enjoys spending time with her family, riding her bike, rollerblading, riding horses, and hiking.