The Bible’s Viewpoint
The Value of Solitude
ON ONE occasion Jesus “went up into the mountain by himself to pray. Though it became late, he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23) On another occasion, “when it became day, he went out and proceeded to a lonely place.” (Luke 4:42) These scriptures testify that Jesus Christ sought out and appreciated occasional moments of solitude.
The Bible provides other examples of men who, like Jesus, valued solitude. It was during the solitude of the night watches that the psalmist meditated on the greatness of his Grand Creator. And in the case of Jesus Christ, right after hearing the news regarding the death of John the Baptizer, he went “into a lonely place for isolation.”—Matthew 14:13; Psalm 63:6.
Today, with the clamor and clutter of modern living, solitude, either by circumstance or choice, is not an option that gets high priority. Do you remember when you last spent time alone? One young married woman said: “I’ve never been alone in my life.”
But is solitude really needed? If so, how can quiet times be used beneficially and rewardingly? And what role does balance play in seeking solitude?
Solitude—Why of Value?
The Bible tells us that an ancient man of God, Isaac, sought solitude “in the field at about the falling of evening.” Why? “In order to meditate,” it says. (Genesis 24:63) According to one dictionary, to meditate is “to think in a contemplative or leisurely manner.” It “implies a serious and extended period of concentration.” For Isaac, who was about to assume weighty responsibilities, such undistracted meditation would have enabled him to clear his mind, organize his thoughts, and evaluate priorities.
A mental-health expert states that as long as ‘loneliness is kept within bounds, the absence of others makes it possible to order our thoughts, to concentrate better.’ Many would testify that this can be restorative, strengthening, and healthy.
Among the desirable fruits of meditation are depth and quiet reserve, qualities conducive to discreet speech and actions, which, in turn, make for harmonious human relationships. For example, a person who learns to meditate can also learn when to keep quiet. Rather than speaking rashly, he considers in advance the potential effect of his words. “Have you beheld a man hasty with his words?” asks the inspired Bible writer. He goes on to say: “There is more hope for someone stupid than for him.” (Proverbs 29:20) What is the antidote to such thoughtless use of the tongue? The Bible says: “The heart of the righteous one meditates so as to answer.”—Proverbs 15:28; compare Psalm 49:3.
For the Christian, the quiet meditation associated with solitude is a vital factor in growth to spiritual maturity. Pertinent are the apostle Paul’s words: “Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons.”—1 Timothy 4:15.
Use Solitude to Draw Closer to God
Said one English author: “A solitude is the audience-chamber of God.” At times, Jesus felt the need to withdraw from his fellow humans and enter into the presence of God in solitude. One example of this is described in the Bible: “Early in the morning, while it was still dark, he rose up and went outside and left for a lonely place, and there he began praying.”—Mark 1:35.
In the Psalms, repeated reference is made to God-oriented meditation. Addressing Jehovah, King David said: “I meditate on you.” In a similar vein are the words of Asaph: “I shall certainly meditate on all your activity, and with your dealings I will concern myself.” (Psalm 63:6; 77:12) Thus, reflecting on divine attributes and dealings brings rich rewards. It enhances appreciation for God, enabling one to draw closer to him.—James 4:8.
Of course, solitude should be pursued in moderation. Solitude could be described as a rewarding place to visit but a dangerous place in which to remain. To isolate oneself too much runs counter to the basic human needs to associate, communicate, and express love. Furthermore, isolation can be the soil out of which the weeds of foolishness and selfishness grow. The Bible proverb warns: “One isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing; against all practical wisdom he will break forth.” (Proverbs 18:1) To be balanced in seeking solitude, we must recognize the dangers of isolation.
Like Jesus and other spiritual men in Bible times, Christians today treasure their moments of solitude. True, with so many responsibilities and concerns, finding time and opportunity to meditate in solitude can be a challenge. Yet, as is the case with all things of true value, we must buy “out the opportune time.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Then, like the psalmist, we can say: “Let the sayings of my mouth and the meditation of my heart become pleasurable before you, O Jehovah.”—Psalm 19:14.