Places of solitude with God are absolutely necessary for our health and well-being. In John 15:1-11 we read about the vine and the branches. A few summers back as I was reading this passage, one phrase caught my attention: If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers. (John 15:6)
During four of our years in Africa, we had a retreat home with a beautiful garden in our courtyard. We had gorgeous vines crawling up to the second-story balcony with orange flowers. We also had purple flowers growing all around our sidewall. The outer courtyard walls (to the street) had bougainvillea in purple, peach, and red colors. We had many potted plants including pink, yellow, and red roses. We had a palm tree in our yard with huge leaves that fanned out like a deck of cards. The garden was absolutely lovely. There is one reason, and only one reason, that the garden was lovely: we hired two part-time gardeners and a night guard who also watered our plants! That garden would have been dead in weeks or months if left up to us. We kill all living plants—just give us time. Therefore, we have a lot of experience with “withered” plants.
Since I consider myself somewhat knowledgeable in this regard, here are some observations about withering plants:
- The pretty colors disappear as the flowers die and the enjoyment of the plant lessens.
- The vibrant green colors turn brown, light yellow, or tan.
- The leaves become brittle—no longer velvety soft.
- The wind blows the leaves away as they become less secure on the vine or branch.
- Finally, there are neither flowers nor leaves—just ugly brown stems.
When I observe myself (and my behavior) during times when I have not consistently stayed connected to the Vine, the comparison to a withered plant fits:
- I am less enjoyable to be around.
- I am not as vibrant as I was before.
- I have more of a bite (more brittle).
- If I would continue to ignore my Savior I would not be as grounded, and therefore, the winds (of trials, adversity, etc.) would more likely blow me away. Eventually I would lose the sense of being alive in the way Jesus intended us to be fully alive.
Fortunately, about the time I start realizing how unwise I have been and start to miss Him, I have not usually strayed too far.
Jesus knew the importance of solitude:
At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place (Luke 4:42).
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed (Mark 1:35).
*J.D. Greear wrote, “In the last message Jesus gave to his disciples, [one would think He was speaking the most important Truths] He told them that the way to fruitfulness and joy—the ‘secret’ to the Christian life—was to abide in Him. … Those things all have their place, but real fruit comes only from one place: abiding in Jesus.”
Jesus consistently went to a solitary place to abide with His Father. He knew when He needed solitude and invited others to join Him: The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:30–31). Solitude is crucial.
At this declaration, I can envision a few village workers thinking, “Have you ever lived in a village? Have you walked in my sandals? Where do you expect me to go?” These are fair questions with few solutions. Our hearts go out to villagers who have to fight with their families for privacy and extended times of solitude with God.
The Word is clear, however: solitude is essential for the well-being of the global worker. In our conversations with village workers, we have come up with only a limited number of ideas, but they may be helpful.
- Husbands, give your wives an hour a day of alone time. Wives, reciprocate.
- Occasionally swap houses with another family (or single) and tell their guard or maid to inform visitors that so-and-so is not home.
- Explain to the nationals that right after lunch, you have chosen to follow the English tradition of “family time.” Instruct your guard/maid to politely refuse company (unless it is a true emergency).
- Get away as often as you can (beach, retreat home, mountain, closest major city, friend’s house, etc.) to spend time with your Heavenly Father.
- Pray for creative ways to follow Jesus’ example despite all the people begging for your attention 24/7. One very, very handy husband built his wife an underground private room for her to go for solitude.
Whether you live in a village or a city of 10 million, how do you find the time to spend in the presence of your Father? This is an essential question to consider.
Solitude with God is critical for staying healthy on one’s field of service. We cannot run on fumes for very long. We need to fill up our tanks by spending time with our best source of strength—our loving Father, Jesus His Son (who exemplified the importance of solitude), and our Comforter the Holy Spirit.
*Gospel—Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary by J.D. Greear
Scripture references NIV1984 [emphases added]
Question to consider: How do you find the time to spend in the presence of your Father?