As disciples, we often learn about the works of Jesus. We study what He did.
We also notice the words of Jesus. Many of us have Bibles with His words in red, highlighting their importance.
In a recent discipleship seminar, I was encouraged to notice the ways of Jesus, learning not just from His public ministry and message, but also from the way Jesus lived His life. With this idea in mind as I read the gospels, I’ve discovered truth I hadn’t noticed before.
For instance, a little verse at the beginning of Matthew 13 caught my attention. The preceding verses describe Jesus teaching crowds of people and confronting the religious leaders. The following verses talk about Jesus teaching such a large crowd, He used a boat as a platform while the people listened from the shore. But between these big ministry moments, Jesus stole time to sit by the lake, alone. (Matthew 13:1)
In fact, Jesus often made time to be alone, even though He was busy and crowds constantly followed Him.
“Yet He often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)
It was His way. Jesus spent time in solitude.
When was the last time you sat alone, without distraction? The television off, the radio silent, the kids with a babysitter, your phone out of reach. Alone with God, to work through your thoughts, feelings, and memories. It can be a very uncomfortable place.
We don’t make space for solitude very often; life is too busy, right? There is always something to do: good, meaningful, and important things. As soon as the house is clean, the laundry done, and a meal prepared, someone has made a mess, gotten dirty, and is hungry again. Between home, work, and church, the responsibilities of life are relentless. But Jesus didn’t use this as an excuse.
Early last year I had a significant mental health event. That’s hard to admit. I think of myself as a strong, capable person. I was very busy, but I had everything under control. At least, I thought I did. I developed chest pain and was admitted to coronary care. After four days of uncomfortable tests, my heart was given a clean bill of health and I was diagnosed with vicarious trauma.
I worked in my church as a pastoral carer, supporting those who were sick and grieving. I spent my days visiting, making phone calls, and praying with people. It was a wonderful privilege to represent the comfort of Jesus to those who were walking through life’s most difficult circumstances. I was good at my job, and I loved it. Yet over time, as I was exposed to the trauma of others without giving myself the time to process what I was witnessing, I began to develop trauma symptoms myself.
My Christian counselor prescribed a powerful therapy for my recovery: solitude. Seriously, that was her recovery plan. She told me to spend time alone with Jesus. Not busy time “doing” my devotions. But “wasted” time, just sitting, being with Jesus. It was difficult.
As I sat in silence, the thoughts that emerged were ugly: memories of pain, feelings of guilt and regret, fear and anxiety. It was hard work. But, inviting Jesus to shine a light into the dark corners of my heart in the quietness of my pain was the best medicine. In time, the knot in my chest unraveled as I submitted all to Christ, and He healed my weary soul.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) What a wonderful invitation. If only we weren’t too busy to accept.
Solitude is a discipline. It doesn’t come easily to many of us. Our modern world is full of distractions and interruptions. We are constantly bombarded with cries for our attention. It honestly feels irresponsible to take time to sit quietly and appear to do nothing. Yet, this is where healing comes. This is where we find the rest our souls so desperately seek.
I now have a practice of having a morning coffee with Jesus. It takes around ten to fifteen minutes. Often, it is after I’ve read my Bible and prayed through my list, but sometimes, I sit with Jesus first.
I find it easier when I have a cup of coffee in my hands. I’m less likely to reach for my phone. I also try to be outside or by a window where I can see the sky and the beauty of creation so I don’t get distracted by dirty dishes or the dusty floor.
I often use the end of Psalm 139 as a prayer.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23–24)
I allow God to sift through my thoughts, good and bad. Somehow, I walk away from solitude lighter, more joyful, and with the best creative ideas.
I hope you are able to “waste” some time alone with Jesus today.
Training Day 5
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