Learning about Solitude -Solitude & Silence
Set a timer for 5 minutes and sit in silence in preparation to learn today. As thoughts come to your mind, intentionally offer them to God.
If five minutes is a challenge, try starting with one minute a day and build up from there.
Read or listen to 1 Kings 19:9-18
9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
Read or listen to this blog from Caleb Jenkins to learn more about solitude. Make a plan to incorporate what you learned from the blog into your practice of solitude this week.
Solitude & Silence
Recently, I stayed at a spiritual retreat center in rural Kansas and what immediately struck me was how absolutely quiet it was, located far from the hustle and bustle of the city. There was something so powerful about the palpable silence that slowed my frantic mind and shifted my focus to God.
But this is hard to find when we live in a loud world. With the constant chatter of those around us, the continual hum from the TV or other electronic devices, or even the nonstop self-talk in our own minds, silence is hard to find. Our modern, digital age makes the practice of solitude almost impossible because noises and distractions are never more than a touch of our devices away.
We might say we’d like nothing more than some peace and quiet, the truth is that silence scares us. We fill our days with activities and spend our spare moments with noisy entertainment from podcasts, music, TV, or social media. How often do you spend each day in silence without trying to accomplish something productive? I even find myself trying to accomplish leisure efficiently, trying to maximize the amount of relaxation in my few spare hours. I think the reason is we are afraid of silence. We have been taught to find our worth in what we do. We may have wounds or insecurities that we self-medicate by staying busy and distracted. Perhaps we’re afraid of what encountering God alone in silence would call us to do or give up.
While these fears can hold us back from engaging in this discipline, the intentional practice of silence with solitude can form us to overcome these. Silence, in many ways, is the ultimate expression of the discipline of solitude, since it takes being alone with God to another level. We become truly alone with God as we even let go of words and sounds that could be used to distract us from him. This practice teaches the doctrine of our salvation by grace alone to our bodies, as we intentionally sit before God in his love with nothing to offer in an attempt to earn his approval. It is an embodied protest to this world’s lie that we are defined by what we do.
Certain uncomfortable feelings may arise during the practice of silence. While this can scare us, this can also lead to inner healing as the feelings stirred up by silence diagnose where we still need God to minister to us. Removing distractions by sitting in silence enables us to listen for God’s gentle voice of correction as the Holy Spirit convicts us of ways we are not living as he created us to be. We become like Elijah, whose self righteousness is met by God’s grace as he encounters the Lord’s still, small voice.
As you practice daily silence for theFormed.Life, let me offer five suggestions.
- Find a place and time in your day when you can practice silence away from others and distractions. This can be hard for some depending on life stages and living situations, so be creative! It may require you to ask for help from those in your life to give you space for quiet time each day.
- Set a timer for the time of silence. One of the easiest distractions early on in this practice is your brain wondering if the silent time is over or not. A timer can free you from thinking about that.
- During the time of silence, intentionally focus on being in God’s presence. As thoughts and other distractions arise, intentionally offer them to God. It can be helpful to breathe slowly and deeply as a means to keep yourself present and mindful. Each day there will be different prompts for the time of silence to help center your attention. If you find yourself having repetitive thoughts coming into your mind during this time, you haven’t failed! The practice of silence did its work to reveal some areas of your thought life that preoccupy you. Intentionally offer them to God in prayer.
- If five minutes (what we suggest for each day) feels too long at first, start shorter (one minute perhaps) and increase it from there. As you get more comfortable with silence, increase the time even beyond the suggested five minutes. Set a stretch goal for yourself to reach by the end of these seven weeks.
- Take note of yourself both during your silent time and throughout your day. What thoughts or emotions arise when you are silent? What might you learn about yourself from those? How does the practice of silence impact you throughout the day? Jot down the answers to these questions in your companion journal throughout this Lent season.
Invite God to reveal himself to you in your solitude and show you how to practice solitude this week.