The year of 2020, and the beginning of 2021, have offered unique opportunities and challenges to the idea of solitude and silence. Depending on living arrangements, some people have found themselves isolated and alone, unable to be with friends and family. Others have dealt with multiple people working and going to school in the same space they eat their meals, refereeing fights that come from boredom and having to be in the same room with the same person for months on end. Stress and anxiety have reached new heights, and healthy lifestyle habits are at an all-time low for many.
Maybe for these reasons, the spiritual practice of silence and solitude seem more attractive now than ever before. If you have been living by yourself for the past several months you may disagree, especially about solitude. But, solitude is not the same as loneliness or aloneness. Loneliness is related to isolation, a “being without” state of mind. Whereas solitude could be described as a peaceful retreat with oneself—and as a spiritual practice, with oneself in the presence of God. It is a place of contentment and wholeness. In some of the hardest times of Jesus’ life he withdrew from others, from crowds and even his closest friends, in solitude. There he wrestled with the events that lay before him, alone in the presence of the Father.
Silence is another often misunderstood discipline. Silence is not merely the absence of noise or talking. It is as much an attitude as a behavior. It is withdrawing with the purpose and intent of being still. It is a quieting of the mind as much as your environment. In Psalm 46:10, the psalmist reminds us that God says, “Be still and know I am God.” Be still. Settle down your soul.
Quiet your spirit. Know that “I am God.” That’s all, and that’s enough. In the midst of (fill in the blank), be still and know that “I am God.”
Settling into the full awareness of God being God leads beautifully to the practice of submission. When we recognize God is on the throne, that he is not daunted by our tantrums or trials, we can loosen our grip on the reins of our lives. Even though submission is a willful act, it is made easier by knowing the one in authority has your best interest at heart. Not only does God want what’s best for you, he is actively working all things in your life for good. Jesus modeled submission perfectly, humbly giving over his will for the better will of the Father. Intentional and consistent submission to the will of God breaks us out of our self-made prison of pride and delivers us into the freedom of his loving and gracious sovereignty.