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Truth For Now

This Week's Study



a new novel, plays out in the time of Jesus. How does the baker
of the village perceive the young rabbi?


Last updated: 2015-09-17

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Loneliness and solitude

3. God restores my soul

To avoid pride in prayer, Jesus urged his followers to practice private prayer. We should go to a secluded place without distractions. We cannot go to the wilderness every day; we should have a silent place where we can be alone with God.

The gospels report several times that Jesus withdrew himself to the hills to pray. For some of his miracles, he took the afflicted person aside, away from the crowd. During his struggle in Gethsemane, he isolated himself from the disciples.

When we are alone with God, we donít have to worry about our words. Jesus said that the Father knows our needs even before we ask him anything. So, what then is the purpose of prayer? We donít have to inform God about the situation Ė he knows that better than we do. A list of petitions is not the goal of prayer either. When adult children visit their parents, they donít start with a list of things they want from the parents. Instead, they enjoy the company of the parents, appreciate them as unique people in their lives, and if they need help from them, they will later put the problem on the table.

The inner room gives opportunity for quality time with God. Jesus taught us to pray first of all that Godís name be glorified, his kingdom come, and his will be done. When talking to our Father, we can be completely honest and open about our needs, fears, sins, thanks, dreams, and goals.

However, when we are alone with God, we have to listen, too. Ask him to lead you by his Spirit, and wait in silence for the whispering voice. If your plan is in his will, your assurance will gradually grow; if not, you will soon loose interest in the project.

God also speaks through his word. You may read your favorite verses, but also read books of the Bible, chapter by chapter. You may want to alternate books of the Old and New Testaments. You may be amazed how often the reading of the day is applicable to your needs of the day.

The inner room is a good antidote for old age: ďThough outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by dayĒ (2 Cor. 4:16). The refreshment of our silent time invigorates us for the challenges and opportunities of the day. Drink from this stream like a riverside tree.

Although our personal daily contact with God is the backbone of our Christian lives, we should not neglect communal worship (Heb. 10:25). When we worship with others, we are empowered by the assurance that we are not alone Ė we have company on the narrow road.


2. Healing in the wilderness

Solitude and loneliness are not the same. Loneliness is being alone against your will, and is emotionally painful and hurting. Solitude is being alone by choice, and is emotionally pleasant and healing.

Because the Israelites multiplied, the Pharaoh decreed that all their male newborn be thrown into the river. When Moses was born, his mother put him in a basket on the river, leaving his future in Godís hand. The princess discovered the baby, and adopted him as her own. Growing up in the palace, Moses discovered that he was Hebrew, so he became sympathetic toward his own people. He accidentally killed an Egyptian who abused a Hebrew. Fearing retribution by the king, he fled to Midian, east of Sinai.

Stripped of his royal privileges and schedules, herding sheep in the desert, he had time to think about the unexpected turns his life had taken. God was preparing him in solitude to become one of the greatest leaders of ancient Israel. In that same desert, he shepherded Godís people for forty years.

Centuries later, another servant of God found refuge in that same desert. Fleeing from the wrath of a queen, Elijah met with God in solitude, and heard his whispering voice. His body, soul, and spirit were restored, and he went back and proceeded with his ministry.

John the Baptist often wandered into the Judean wilderness west of the Dead Sea. Watching jackals, wild goats and rock hyraxes, he learned what was edible and so survived on simple foods like honey and locusts. His father told him what the angel had said; he knew he was the herald of the Messiah. In solitude, God prepared him for his task, and when the time came, many streamed to him in the Jordan Valley to hear his powerful messages.

Jesus also paid a visit to the desert before he began with his ministry. He fasted and prayed for forty days, preparing himself for his work, which would start with a victory over Satan. As Jesus was famished, the devilís first attempt must have been a real temptation: make bread from stones and still your hunger! Jesus overcame Satan by the power of Godís word. After that, the demons fled in fear from Jesus.

When the risen Christ changed Saul the persecutor to Paul the missionary, Paul needed some time to rethink his life. He went into the Arabian Desert, and there, alone with God, he was reoriented. He knew the Old Testament well, but he had to reinterpret all those passages on the Messiah. Paul became the most important theologian of first century Christianity.

These faith-warriors were not lonely in the wilderness; God was with them.


1. He redeems my life from the pit

Solitary confinement is severe punishment. It is not related to solitude but to loneliness. These prisoners yearn for contact with their friends. They sleep, read, pace, think and plan, but time passes slowly when you have too much of it.

Any unpleasant situation that keeps one captive can feel like incarceration. Missing people, who work as sex slaves, experience this feeling of hopelessness. Others feel imprisoned by their marriage, work or social-economic situation, but they canít break free because the status quo provides food, clothes and shelter.

The Bible paints a few situations of loneliness. Joseph knew his brothers did not like him because he was his dadís favorite. However, when they put him into a pit, he really felt the pain of rejection. Twenty three years later they still remembered Josephís anguished cries to which they shut their ears (Gen. 42:21).

His dry-well experience was nothing in comparison with the holes he would face in Egypt. As slave, he did his best and was promoted. Then his masterís wife accused him falsely of sexual harassment. It was a hard blow to the self-respect of this God-fearing young man. He was imprisoned with condemned people; it made him feel lonely even among this crowd. On the right time, God exonerated him.

Samson misused his God-given power. He landed in jail without eyes, every day pushing in darkness the heavy millstone in endless circles. His imagination must have replayed his life often, thinking about the incidents where he made wrong choices. He was blind, imprisoned, enslaved and hopeless by his own wrongdoing. In his regret, he projected his anger on his enemies, and waited for the day of revenge.

The prophet Jeremiah was thrown into a pit for proclaiming Godís word to the king and nation. He was an old man already, and standing up to his chest in mud in a dark pit would not have improved his health. Imagine the darkness, silence, loneliness, hopelessness and despair as he prayed for relief of this undeserved misery. An Ethiopian pleaded Jeremiahís case with the king, and got permission to hoist him out. David used the pit-experience figuratively (Ps. 40:1-3, 103:4)

Jesus was condemned to death at 6 am (Roman time, John 19:14), and crucified on the third hour (9 am, Jewish time, Mark 15:25). He had to wait more than two hours with his bruised and lacerated body. He had blessed those who visit prisoners and give a cup of cold water Ė did anyone honor him in this way in his loneliest hours? On the Via Dolorosa and on Calvary he was surrounded by friend and foe, and still felt lonely and deserted, carrying the sins of humanity, an act nobody could fathom.