As you prepare for your time of solitude, don’t think of it as confinement, or as a punishment, or suffering. You can look forward to this time. It is a time that God has provided for you to be intimate with Him and to receive His blessings. Here are five blessings of solitude:
1. You gain the impression of Christ. As you loose the impression of the world in solitude, you will also, at the same time, gain the impression of Christ and will be renewed and restored by His love. Such impressions, however, are limited by the amount of time you spend in prayer. To the degree that you remain in quiet prayer, to that same degree you will gain these impressions.
Arthur T. Pierson once wrote,
He who rushes into the Presence of God, to hasten through a few formal petitions, and then hasten back to outside cares and pursuits, does not tarry long enough to lose the impression of what is without, and get the impress or what is within, the secret chamber…He who would look downward into his own heart-depths, and see God reflected there, must stay long enough for the stormy soul to get becalmed. Only when he first gives peace is the nature placid enough to become the mirror of heavenly things.
2. You gain a greater resolve to wait on God, and, as you are waiting, your desire for God is sharpened. Solitude is a place and a time to wait on God. And in our waiting we acknowledge our dependence on Him. It is a submission to His will and His time.
Runcorn put it this way: “Waiting is an acknowledgement of our dependency. It exposes to us the illusion of our ‘control’ over our lives.” Runcorn goes on to say, “Waiting is …a place of faithful obedience, ready to respond and serve the moment the need arrives. It is attentive and full of concentration on the will of the master.”
The Psalmist illustrates quite well this act of waiting. He says, “Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until He has mercy on us” (Ps. 123:2).
Psalms 130:6 says, “My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning.” Here we see that our waiting is not only a dependency, but also a hopeful expectancy. And in this expectant hope strength is renewed and desire is shaped.
Isaiah declares, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (Is. 40:31). In waiting God gives us new strength to wait longer. He will not let us fade in our waiting. In fact, the longer we wait the greater our desire for Him grows.
Many times in our waiting, especially if we are fasting, we lose all desire for the things of the world, and our thirst for God is heightened to a pant. We may say with the Psalmist, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1).
3. You are weaned off of the need for constant experiences. Runcorn writes, “In bringing us to a place of emptiness, of facing our hunger and thirst, the wilderness has a way of weaning us off our need for constant ‘experiences’ and ‘consolations’. It teaches us to live by faith not by sight. This is not a rejection of ‘experiences’ of God, but the recognition that it is God we are called to trust in, not his gifts.”
I think it also needs to be said that the reason we would ever have a desire to trust more in God and not to desire experiences is because we have learned in the desert of solitude that the experience of God is far more desirable that any other experience. Solitude then makes us more aware of God. It brings to our life a firm foundation of hope and makes all other experiences dull, even boring, compared to the experience we find in God. But in saying that, I must also say that with God nothing we do is dull or boring, not because those things in themselves give us any satisfaction, but because He is there with us. He is our eternal hope and joy.
4. Character is shaped. Many of the most well known characters in the Bible were people who were shaped by solitude. In fact, most of the Old Testament characters were desert dwellers, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And how about Moses? He wandered with the children of Israel for forty years in the desert.
Some were shaped not only by the desert, but also by the dungeon. Such was Joseph, who was first thrown into a pit by his brothers to die, then later was wrongly cast into a prisoner’s dungeon for about three years. This man, who was wrongly imprisoned, was fashioned by God through those hard times, and came out of it a great leader (over all the land of Egypt) and a great man of God (Gen. 41:41).
Elijah also was formed in his character by the desert where he lived. There, sometimes he had no food at all, only the food that God provided by miracles. On one occasion, ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and evening; and he would drink from the brook Cherith (1 K. 17:6). This man, though he had a nature like ours, became so great in his faith that he stopped the rain through prayer for three and one half years (Ja. 5:17).
In each of these men, solitude taught them to live by faith. In many cases they had to cry out to God for the very essentials of life or they would die.
5. In solitude the Spirit of God joins us with the spirit of our friends. In solitude we sense His Spirit all around us, and we also feel the spirit of the saints and all their needs and pains. We want to comfort them as He comforts us. Our awareness of God keeps us more aware of ourselves and also of others.
Sometimes in solitude we feel exceptionally close to others, in fact, closer than if we were physically with them. And that is because, though our bodies are further apart, our spirits are closer.
David Runcorn relates his experience of being in solitude, apart from his friends: “Out of the tears and the pain of that emptiness there came a deeper awareness of my friends. There were times when they were more present to me than if I was with them physically. Truly, this solitude was not separation, but a meeting at a deeper level.”