Voltaire wrote, “The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude.” But how many of us really believe that?
In today’s chaotic, noisy world, it’s easy to avoid solitude. We don’t really have to be alone. Even when we aren’t scheduled to be engaged with people, we can avoid solitude by stopping in a coffee shop humming with espresso machines and conversations. We can video chat and Skype with people even when we can’t be with them in person.
So why do we avoid solitude and why should we embrace it instead?
First, 5 reasons we avoid solitude:
- We fear loneliness. It’s then we have to remember there is a difference between loneliness and solitude. Natasha Dern wrote in the Huffington Post, “Loneliness is marked by feelings of isolation and persists even when one is with other people. Solitude, on the other hand, is a state of being alone, content with your own company.” Although loneliness can be depressing, solitude can lead to greater appreciation for who you are.
- We’re afraid we might miss something. If we’re not chatting with friends or plugged into social media we may fear failing to know or see something important.
- We’re too busy. Our schedule is filled with exercise classes, work obligations, driving kids to camps and classes. There simply isn’t time to be alone.
- We avoid a chaotic inner life by filling it with more noise. So much is going on inside our heads that we consciously or unconsciously don’t want to deal with it, so we keep running the treadmill of appointments and social engagements.
- We may be hiding from God. We know in our hearts something is wrong, but we don’t want God to confront us. We don’t want to deal with the guilt, the regret, or the doubt we are feeling.
Any of those reasons sound familiar? You may be thinking. Yep, all of those sound like me.
So why should we embrace solitude?
Consider the last and most important reason we avoid solitude–hiding from God. Two famous people hid from God in the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve knew they had messed up. They were ashamed. Guilt-ridden. Afraid. So when they heard the sound of God’s voice in the garden they hid among the tress. I think they ultimately knew they couldn’t really hide from God, but they tried.
I’m like that too. I want to sweep all my guilt under the rug and hope God doesn’t notice. So I hide. I avoid being alone where God’s voice might break through in the quiet. I fill my life with activity and noise. But I know all along that I can’t really hide from God. He knows all my thoughts, so it is better to open up my heart to God and let Him deal with the mess.
The Genesis story tells us that the Lord God was walking in the garden in the cool of the day. Perhaps this was a regular occurrence. After Adam and Eve had worked among the flowers and trees of Paradise, God Himself came to spend some time with them every evening. But this time they were trying to avoid Him.
God called out, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). He calls out to us. He wants us to know that He still loves us. An article on Crosswalk.com advises, “Rather than hiding from God, denying who you are, or trying to control what others think of you, allow the truth of who you are to surface during solitude and silence – and face the reality of the person you see, flaws and all.”
The purpose of solitude is to allow God to open up the hurts, the guilt, the doubts and heal them. In the silence, the Spirit reminds us of God’s words, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) and “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).
God loves us with an unconditional love. And sometimes the only way we can hear His words of love is when we quiet all the other voices.
Next Step: What is your number one reason for avoiding solitude? Bring it to God and ask Him to help you find time to get alone with Him this week. Schedule the time alone now