The Sound of Silence Building relationship with God through solitude
arly on a Saturday morning, I packed a lunch for the day ahead. I was looking forward to spending time in prayer, silence and solitude during a half-day retreat. For the past year, I had been part of a Navigator discipleship program, meeting weekly in a small group. As the retreat approached, some members of the group wondered how we would fill the time. Our leader reassured us that when we finished the retreat, we would want to do it again. As I arrived at the retreat location to begin my time of solitude, I was side-tracked by the thought of lunch. I glanced into my bag, only to discover that I had neglected to tighten the lid on my water bottle. My sandwich was sodden. I was so disappointed that I couldn’t concentrate. And then I felt ashamed that I had allowed the loss of my lunch to distract me. I asked the Lord to help me overcome my frustration, and soon I was deep in meditation on God’s Word, seeking his focus for the day. I spent time in his presence, waiting, listening and worshipping. I did finish the day wanting more. The Discipline of Solitude The pace and demands of life can be overwhelming. One of the ways we can silence the noise is through the prac24 May 2016 Salvationist
tice of solitude—intentionally getting away from everyone and everything for a while to be alone with God. Solitude helps us strike a balance between doing and being. It’s important to stop doing and just be in God’s presence. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray (see Luke 5:16), modelling the importance of this discipline. Here are some suggestions for how to incorporate silence and solitude into your life: Book a date. Schedule it on your calendar like any other activity—if you wait for the right time, it won’t happen. Choose a place. Any location where you can be alone, such as a retreat centre, church or prayer room, will work. Go with no agenda other than to be in God’s presence. Slow down. It’s normal for it to take some time for your mind to slow down. Find a comfortable position and breathe deeply from the diaphragm several times until you begin to relax. Then focus on something such as a verse of Scripture, the names of God or a spiritual phrase. As you spend time with God, the issues of life will eventually begin to melt away. Expect distractions. Recognizing that distracting thoughts will come can help us prepare for them. Start by turning off your cellphone. If you are using a tablet to read Scripture, determine ahead of time that you will stay away from all other programs. If you
lose focus, gently bring your thoughts back to God. Confront fearful thoughts with the truth of God’s Word. Manage thoughts of things to do by writing them in a journal. Rest. If you get sleepy, it’s OK to take a nap. Just use a timer to get back on track after your sleep break. Start small. Begin with a couple of hours. Over time, you will see this discipline grow in your life. Solitude has created an environment for God to speak to me. As my mind is quiet before God, the Holy Spirit has guided the inclinations of my heart to be in harmony with his Word. Solitude has been instrumental in managing my anxiety. When I have been overwhelmed with worry, Jesus has reminded me that he has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind (see 2 Timothy 1:7). Spending time in God’s presence has revealed how unwavering his love is for me. Major Dave Grice is the divisional secretary for spiritual life development in the British Columbia Division.
For Further Reading: • T he Sacred Way by Tony Jones • Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton • Other Voices by Major Christine Faragher
Photo: © chalabala/stock.Adobe.com
BY MAJOR DAVE GRICE