Kristi and I are leading a five-day long TLC (“To Love Christ”) retreat/training this week for a group of pastors and wives. (I wrote and scheduled this devotional ahead so I can keep a technology fast.) Often when people go on Christian “retreats” what that means to them is great speakers, dynamic worship bands, and fun activities. That’s great, but it’s missing what we believe is the heart of a retreat: extended hours to be quiet and alone in God’s presence.
Time after time, the pastors, leaders, and caregivers tell us how powerful it is for them and their ministry when they unplug, walk away, say no, quiet the “Christian commotion,” and set aside some hours to feel, listen, and hear: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Dripped On or Drenched?
So in your relationship with God don’t settle for a few drops of Living Water — get drenched!
I have learned from experience that attempting to stay engaged with the Spirit of Christ throughout the daily grind without making periodic use of extended solitude and silence is like trying to get a quick shower from a dripping shower head! The typical daily “Quiet Times” just aren’t enough — even if we never miss one!
For most people it takes a few hours in being alone and quiet with Christ and the Father just for their body to stop jerking and their mind to stop jumping! They need to let any repressed emotional distress rise to the surface and be brought into God’s loving embrace. They need to wait on God. They may need to be immersed in the beauty of nature or a passage of Scripture that they’re drawn to.
Then the shower of Living Water begins to flow!
Jesus himself did this. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed… One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (Luke 5:16, 6:12)
We read statements like this repeatedly in the gospels. Just like you and I, Jesus needed to sometimes get away from his normal responsibilities and relationships to be with the Father in a special way.
Jesus’ prolonged periods of deep engagement with the Father — even for forty days in the desert at the launch of his public ministry! — was central to his experience of “Father and Son intimacies and knowledge” (Matt. 11:27, MSG).
It was also how Jesus trained to live in the same “easy yoke” that he offers us (Matt. 11:28). Always he responded to people with ease, wisdom, and grace, even when put “on the spot” in high pressure or painful situations. That’s because “off the spot,” or in the background when no one (or few people) were watching, he exercised his body and soul in the rhythms of Scripture meditation and prayer, including with solitude and silence. Discipline enables us to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.
If Jesus needed 40 days of solitude in his training then maybe it’d be good for me to get a few hours now and again?
Psalm 23 Solitude
In Psalm 23 our Good Shepherd invites us to experience the “He restores my soul” shower of divine blessing. First, we need to abandon everything to him, praying, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Then we express this attitude with our bodies by lying down in his green pastures (doing nothing productive and not trying to make anything happen) and letting him lead us beside his still waters (Psalm 23:1-3).