Solitude: An Alternative to Loneliness

“Look at all the lonely people” goes the haunting refrain of an old Beatles tune. Have you ever been so lonely you ache? Loneliness is a bitter pill, and we rightly run from it. But there is an alternative to loneliness.

How would you complete the sentence, “A friend is someone who _________________”? Most answers would be something like “a friend is someone you can count on” or “a friend will never leave you lonely” or “a friend is someone you can talk to.” But what about, “A friend is someone you can be quiet with”?

When you are with some people, you have to keep up the conversation and avoid those awkward periods of booming silence. On the other hand, there are some people you are so comfortable with, so secure with; you can just enjoy their presence.

Richard Foster observes, “Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.” He then goes on to describe the examples of Jesus and solitude. Jesus inaugurated his ministry by spending forty days alone (Matthew 4:1-11). Before he chose the Twelve, he spent the night by himself (Luke 6:12). When he learned of the death of his cousin, John the Baptist, he withdrew “to a lonely place apart” (Matthew 14:13). After feeding the multitudes, he sent the apostles away and “went up into the hills by himself” (Matthew 14:23). The list goes on and on and on. Jesus valued solitude, and so should we.

Here are some questions to think about.

  1. When do you feel closer to God: surrounded by people in worship or off in the wilderness by yourself?
  2. Why did Jesus keep withdrawing from the crowds to be by himself?
  3. Who are some other biblical characters who spent time alone?
  4. Does being alone make you feel uncomfortable?
  5. When do you need some time by yourself? Why?
  6. Describe a time when you felt lonely.
  7. Describe a time when you enjoyed being by yourself.
  8. What is the difference between the two experiences?
  9. How will you find some time to spend alone with God this week?

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