Most of us enjoy the feelings we get when we are in the middle of a crowd. The thrill of the football stadium crowd, the shared enthusiasm when our team scores, and even the disappointment when they lose, are all factors of our delight in this type of experience. Many of us find it strange when someone wants to be alone. “What, you want to be completely alone, with NOBODY there?” The desire to be alone is often considered to be anti-social.
In spite of this feeling, there are times when we really need to be alone. The life of Jesus serves as our best example of what is right, proper, and acceptable to God. We find that he often sought time to be alone, and even commanded solitude under certain conditions.
First, Jesus commanded solitude in prayer: “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6).
Second, before he announced the selection of his apostles, he went into a mountain to pray all night (Luke 6:12ff).
Third, when his cousin John (the baptist) was beheaded by Herod, Jesus responded by getting away from the crowd. “When Jesus heard [of it], he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard [thereof], they followed him on foot out of the cities” (Matthew 14:13). He found that the people continued to pursue him, and had to go into a mountain “apart to pray.”
Finally, when Jesus faced his greatest trial–that of dying the horrible and cruel death of the crucifixion–he went into the garden to pray, taking with him only his closest friends, who were left so he could be alone (Matthew 26:36ff).
Notice the times when solitude is appropriate: when we approach God in prayer, when we are about to make an important decision, when we suffer loss of a loved one, and when we are faced with death or persecution. There are several other possibilities that present themselves, but these four examples from the life of Jesus recorded in the Gospels should be sufficient.
Let us enjoy the crowds and their benefits in our lives, but let us also seek out those times of solitude that are proper for our spiritual, as well as mental well-being.
Tony W. Boyd
Jackson church of Christ