Question: "What does the Bible say about the value of solitude?"
Answer: Solitude, the state of being alone, is often considered one of the traditional spiritual disciplines. Many times it is associated with silence. The idea is to be alone with God, to pray, to meditate on His Word, and to simply enjoy His presence. Some people use solitude as a way to distance themselves from the distractions of the world, acknowledge the interior of their hearts, and hear God speak. Being alone can also be used as a time of rest and refreshment.
The Bible certainly supports the value of solitude. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” It is much easier to “be still” in solitude. Lamentations 3:25–28 says, “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him.”
We see examples of God’s people practicing solitude in the Bible. For instance, Moses met regularly with the Lord at the tabernacle (Exodus 33:7, 11). God spoke with Elijah (1 Kings 19) and Jacob (Genesis 32:24–32) while these men were alone. The best example is Jesus, who “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). Jesus, God Incarnate, spent time alone with His Father. We see Him seeking out solitude after performing miracles (Mark 1:35), in times of grief (Matthew 14:13), before choosing the twelve apostles (Luke 6:12–13), in His distress in Gethsemane (Luke 22:39–44), and at other times. Solitude was a consistent practice in Jesus’ life.
Jesus invited His disciples to share times of solitude (group solitude) with Him. “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place” (Mark 6:31–32).
Biblically speaking, solitude is a valuable practice. “Alone time” with God can allow God to examine us. It can be a time of knowing God more deeply, a time of strengthening, a time of refreshment, a time of sharing our deepest concerns with God, and a time of simply being with the One who formed us and loves us beyond our understanding.
Another benefit of periodic times of solitude is that such times allow us to refocus ourselves on what is truly important. It is good, every now and then, to “come away”; we need time spent away from others, away from cell phones, away from television shows, away from the daily grind. We don’t want the “worries of this life” to choke out the Word (Mark 4:19). Rather, we want to spend time with Jesus and, like Mary of Bethany, sit at His feet hearing His word (Luke 10:39).
The practice of solitude, like other religious practices, can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. Solitude is not a place to live. We are not to be hermits or cloister ourselves away from society. However, in order to fully enjoy our relationship with God and to fully participate in godly community, we must have times when we relate with God one-on-one.
The old hymn by Helen Lemmel says it well: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, / Look full in His wonderful face, / And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, / In the light of His glory and grace.”