The Solitude of Jesus: Alone But Not Lonely
For everything, there is a season - a time for every activity under heaven, according to Ecclesiastes 3. It goes on to list various things we are to encounter in this lifetime: breaking down and building up, keeping silent and speaking, embracing and holding back from embracing, just to name a few. I’ve been struck by the variation that exists within all of these things and the freedom with which to move through them; as I imagine those seasons of my life, was I alone or surrounded by others?
Something woven into the pages of the new testament is a human example of Jesus experiencing every single one of these seasons, and then some. As he traversed historical events, weddings, births, baptisms, and deaths, he manages to communicate when the need arises for solitude and then to seek out moments alone when his heart and mind require it. As Jesus lived, we see him act from a heart imbued with the knowledge of how loved he is regardless of his circumstances, setting the example for choosing to be alone without succumbing to loneliness.
Why Solitude is Important
It’s solitude that creates the space to listen and take in otherwise missed melodies of thought mingling with the natural world, a composition of space and time often overlooked. I have found that those who can spend time alone with themselves and not go mad are much more interesting to be around, for it is in moments of solitude that we finally turn to face ourselves as if to say, “What will you decide to do with this time?”
Consider the idea that by seeking out solitude, we are not simply physically removing ourselves from a place, but rather establishing an inward PH balanced by peace and contentment that is made deeper still by utilizing prayer as a way to meditate on soul matters and also to clear the mind. Jesus is one who made the most of the experience of prayer, communing with God and pouring out the whole of his attention so that a change would manifest in his spirit. He understood the value of alone time and never wasted the opportunity.
The Connection Between Solitude and Selflessness
In Matthew 4, Jesus withdraws to the desert. Just before, he was baptized in Jordan and was heading into a time of beginning his ministry. It was in this season in the desert that he, totally alone, came to understand cornerstones for his impending ministry. He walked into solitude to be faced with trials that would create strength of faith, tangible examples of how me-time was an act of selflessness necessary to prepare for what was to come.
Later on in Matthew, Jesus receives word that his relative and friend, John the Baptist, is killed. Matthew 14:13 tells us that when Jesus heard this news, “he withdrew from there and in a boat to a desolate place by himself.” He sought out a break from his ministry to be alone to grieve and to mourn, fulfilling the promise that we are to experience this in life.
Luke 6:12 says that Jesus “went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.”
Jesus finds himself with a decision to make. To further round out his ministry, he decides to choose 12 apostles from his disciples. He takes advantage again of solitude and prayer to make this decision, choosing to be alone for an extended period of time because of the value that lies in isolation.
Again in the gospel of Luke, Jesus withdraws himself for space to pray. He is about to encounter the most demanding and devastating task of his life and he moves from being surrounded by his disciples to a place “a stone’s throw away,” according to verse 41. It's here that he kneels to ask God to remove this task from his life, ultimately praying that he will yield to its completion if that is what is required of him.
What the Solitude of Jesus Teaches Us
In reading these examples, I’m replaying in my head the ways I have utilized my solitude recently. Scrolling through Instagram reels, binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy, and reorganizing my bookshelf all come to mind. Granted that in this season of life solitude and alone time are in abundance, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to waste.
There is so much precious revelation found in being alone, for it is a gift to find oneself in the place of making conscious decisions that aid in the design of life and bring about clarity. Being alone gives the permission to feel full emotion and respond to it and to make empowered moves in preparation and decision making. Being alone does not mean succumbing to loneliness and zoning out wallowing, and bemoaning. For everything, there is a season and to every season there is the choice to embrace being alone with inspired hope and faith.