In the stillness of the wee hours of a new day, I’ve come to realize just how noisy my house can be. The ice maker randomly releases ice. The AC unit clicks on and off throughout the night. Even the motion sensor occasionally shines a light at the slightest gesture. In these moments when I am restless and can’t seem to fall back asleep, I realize the reason I am up is not just to observe the automated sounds in my home. Following this realization comes this question from my heart to God’s, “What is it you want to say?”
God sometimes uses the stillness of the early morning to draw me into a place of silence and solitude with Him. Everything around me is settled. Distractions are minimal. It is an ideal opportunity to steal away and be with God. It’s the perfect time to hear what He wants to say to me and see what He’s been trying to show me all along. Quiet time alone with God is the space we practice the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude. This is where we learn to be still in the presence of God. What does it mean to be still? Being still is the opposite of striving and grinding; it is when we quiet our soul and our spirit to be present with God. The emphasis is on being, not doing. Solitude with God allows us to refresh, refocus, and recharge as we immerse ourselves in God’s presence.
Psalm 46:10 (ESV) tells us, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Stillness in fellowship with God runs deeper than being quiet and refraining from activity. Being still is a posture that positions us to fellowship with God and receive what He desires to impart to us in every aspect of our lives.
We know that to be in solitude with God is to be alone with Him. But where does this idea of solitude as a discipline originate? The answer: Jesus! In Matthew 4:1, we learn that the spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. Matthew 14:23 reveals how Jesus went up in the mountains to be alone with the father to pray. Mark 1:35 and Luke 4:42 record that Jesus went out to a desolate place.
As we experience the busyness of everyday life, it is easy to overlook the value and necessity of reflection that only happens due to being in silence and solitude with God regularly. His presence provides a safe environment to assess where we are, especially as it relates to where we are in our relationship with our Creator.
Stillness and Solitude are invitations to worship God and draw near Him. You may be asking yourself, “But what exactly does that look like?” Here are three keys to utilize when practicing the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude as we cultivate our devotion to God.
When we wait, we are waiting on God and waiting in God. Waiting requires us to intentionally focus our mind, will, and every part of our being on God. This is part of quieting our soul. Quietness is not restricted to the absence of audible sound, nor stillness the void of motion. It is an inner alignment that happens as we commune with the Father. In these moments, we are fully present to place ourselves in agreement with God’s spirit, yielded to His agenda.
When we are listening, we are actively hearing the voice of God. God’s spirit speaks to us in many ways. Most of all, He speaks to us through scripture. Listening requires patience on the part of our humanity. It brings clarity to the direction we receive from God. Listening is a purposeful art that serves us well in our relationship with God and others. The more we actively listen while waiting in God’s presence, the more familiar we become with how God speaks to us. It can be tempting to start speaking, but deliberately remaining silent so we can truly listen builds intimacy in our relationship with God.
Practicing stillness and solitude requires trust in God’s spirit to lead us. We must be willing to relinquish the need to control the direction of our experience and submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit. God’s spirit is alive, active within, and more than able to guide us. Being in God’s presence causes us to trust him and develop godly confidence. Absolute trust only occurs when we have experienced real surrender.
Now that I’ve given you three keys to these disciplines, I want to share three practical ways we can implement and guard our time for practicing silence and solitude with God.
1. Plan for it in advance.
Although unexpected moments when we sense God wooing us to be with Him are wonderful, it doesn’t mean we cannot plan for it also. Maybe you are a morning person like me, and you appreciate being alone with God in silence before beginning your day. You might even consider attending a silence and solitude retreat (yes, that is such a thing) for a very focused time of engagement. Less formally, you could have your own spiritual sabbatical bi-annually or annually where you block time specifically for this purpose. On a daily basis, creating margin is essential to have freedom and flexibility in our schedules to be alone with God. All of these are ideas we can choose to plan in advance.
2. Eliminate distractions.
Spoiler alert: Expect distractions the minute you decide you want to implement these two disciplines. Let’s be honest, silence and solitude are not the most popular spiritual disciplines. Most people would not identify them as their “go-to,” the way they associate prayer or reading the Bible. Therefore, blocking out anything that could divert your attention is essential. We must reject the lures of electronic devices and other external distractions. However, we should be careful not to ignore our own internal distractions that interfere with our time with God. When we feel distractions pulling us out of the presence of God, the best thing to do is release whatever barrier may be back to God. Verbalizing it and re-consecrating our time to the purpose at hand will help us keep distractions at bay.
3. Commit to a regular rhythm of practice.
Aside from planning in advance, building silence and solitude into our routine is one way to ensure we maintain a daily rhythm and not only experience these disciplines during special times in the year. Can you start your day with silence and solitude before practicing other spiritual disciplines? How about incorporating it as part of your mid-day practice around lunchtime? How much time will you allocate? One thing I have found helpful is playing a particular instrumental worship song from my playlist to help me stay focused and, at the same time, keep my time schedule. We all have things that work for us, but what is most important is to be consistent. Committing ourselves is half the battle.
It is incredible what a difference grounding ourselves in these disciplines can make in our everyday lives. Even if it’s just starting with five minutes a day, I want to encourage you to set your timer, find a quiet place (or create a calm spot) so that you can sit with God. Prioritizing time alone with God is imperative to our continued Christian growth. Best of all, there’s so much God wants to share with us. He is always calling our names.