Five final exams. Two PowerPoint presentations. Three research papers. Two books to read. Twenty-five hours on my work schedule this week. Surely death is on the horizon! Deadlines are closing in, my stress level is dangerously high, and my emotional stability is teetering on the edge of a cliff. “There’s no way I’m going to survive these next two weeks.” We all have had this dooming thought run through our brain at some point. We operate in a busy culture that only seems to speed up everyday with each new task assigned. I might just be speaking for myself, but sometimes I feel like I have so much to do that I don’t even have time to stop, sit down, and write out a list of all the things that have to get done! Oh, the irony. When life gets busy, time with the Lord is usually the first thing to get squeezed out. We think we are too busy and far too stressed to stop, place life on hold, and spend time with the Lord. We become so focused on the task at hand that we forget to pause and remember the One who gives us our purpose and the power to carry it out through His presence.
Matthew 14 shows us that Jesus sought personal time alone with His Father amidst emotionally exhausting situations. This solitude with God empowered Him to obey perfectly the daily ministry and ultimate mission God had sent Him to accomplish. Jesus’ example here shows us the importance and benefits regular solitude with God brings to our lives.
Solitude with God Restores Peace
“Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself.” – verse 13
In verses 6-12 of this chapter, we read the account of John the Baptist’s murder by Herod at the request of his daughter Herodias. John was Jesus’ cousin, close friend, and fellow minister. You can imagine the distress and emotional burden Jesus would have faced with such news. His heart grieved deeply for His friend. But notice: Jesus did not run to man for words of comfort; all He wanted and needed was His Father. He attempted to get away from everyone in order to seek peace from the God of Peace. In trying circumstances, we seek peace from God for several reasons. Peace in the Lord means no worry (Philippians 4:6-7). No worry brings freedom to have joy. Joy then fuels contentment and gratitude, no matter the circumstances (James 1:2-4). Solitude with God is peaceful security even if nothing else makes sense.
So, going back to our account in Scripture, Jesus is trying to get away to spend time with God, but the paparazzi then invade. Verse 14 draws attention to Jesus’ genuine compassion toward people who most likely just wanted Him for what He could do for them. It is important to remember that Jesus is still faithful with the ministry at hand, even though He desired to be alone in that moment. He did not neglect the assignment and ministry responsibility God had given Him because of His current mood. I often have a temptation to shut down when I am emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed from stress. It’s almost as if I justify the neglect of some responsibilities God has given me since I’m just not “feeling it” due to the weight of my busy schedule or overwhelming tasks. However, the truth of the matter is that our faithfulness in the Christian life is not motivated by our feelings. Our Christian life is motivated by our surrendered commitment to the Savior and the advancement of His kingdom.
Solitude with God Requires Planning
“Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was alone there.” – verses 22-23
After meeting the present needs of the crowds, Jesus takes several intentional steps to isolate Himself with the Father. First, He makes the disciples get into the boat. Next, He gives them instructions to go ahead. Then, He sends the crowds away. Finally, He climbs the mountain to get away physically to a secluded spot. We see that Jesus does not just naturally find Himself alone in a deserted land with nothing else to do but pray and spend time with God. The Son of God actively fights for time alone with His Father.
We often associate solitude with a hidden, desolate cabin in the middle of the woods. But ladies, we must consider the true nature of biblical isolation with the Father. Spiritual solitude is not merely the absence of people; it is the absence of people and distraction for the intentional purpose of private communion with God. In a fast-paced culture that does not call for interruptions in schedules or routines, we can easily get swept up in busyness and run ourselves dry spiritually. We all need time to process alone with God, look at things under His Light, and sit in His Word of truth for insight.
Solitude with God Recharges and Refuels Us Personally
“But the boat was already a long distance from land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.” – verses 24-25
After time alone with God, Jesus’ soul is refreshed and He is attentive to the needs of His disciples. How is this different than His interaction with the people prior to His time with the Father? Beforehand, the crowd of people followed Him, and He responded in compassion. Here, Jesus actively initiates, seeking to minister to His followers. Jesus knew His disciples; He knew they’d be stricken with fear in the midst of a storm. He came to them in their time of need. But we cannot forget: Jesus’ effectiveness in ministry was enriched and expanded because of His intentional seclusion and time of refreshment with God. You will have nothing to pour out to others if you are not taking time to be poured into by the Father. You will run dry.
This week, I encourage you to accept the challenge of solitude with God along with me. Let’s intentionally plan time alone with the Lord to sit still at His feet. Let’s seek solitude AND silence, putting away all distractions. Go sit in a hammock. Put away your to-do list. Turn your phone on silent. Open a passage of Scripture. Set your mind on the Lord and the things of Him (Colossians 3:2-3). And sit in silence as you meditate on truth. Richard J. Foster in The Celebration of Discipline writes, “One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let Him take control until we trust Him. Silence is intimately related to trust.” We must stop talking and allow the Lord to direct the conversation. It’s amazing what He can teach us if only we would be silent and listen.
Heavenly Father, remind me daily of my need for time alone with You. Thank You for group Bible studies and church sermons, but let me not be content with those alone. Give me discipline to free up time in my schedule this week. Teach me the art of silence before You so that You might speak to me. Allow me to find genuine joy and nourishment from personal time in silence and solitude with You.
The Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Don Whitney
Tyranny of the Urgent by Charles E. Hummel
Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung