Mark 6:31 – “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.”
Here in Mark 6:31Jesus invites His disciples to join Him on a journey on a retreat into rest. Rest is a word we often hear about, but do we really understand it’s importance in our lives? It doesn’t take long as you read through the Gospels to see the relaxed, calm pace with which Jesus responded to life. As He relates to others He doesn’t appear hurried, even at times of great stress His steps seem sure and clam. When one His closest friends, Lazarus, was on his deathbed, even then Jesus didn’t rush. So how is it that Jesus moved through life so slowly and yet accomplished so much? It makes me wonder in our push to progress, is there something that contemporary Christians have missed? Just like the disciples we too can be inundated with the no stop demands and distractions of this world. We live in a noise drenched world, soaking us in its downpour of sound, drowning out the voice of God. Silence and solitude are like umbrellas, that once engaged, shed the constant sheeting of sound. Today our souls need time to soak in the silence, free from the distracting deluge that pounds against our souls. In Luke 13 Jesus told a parable about a man who had a fig tree that for three years bore no fruit so he commanded the gardner to chop it down. But the gardner asked for another year, so he could dig and fertilize around it. Just like the fig tree, our hearts also need tending to. There are many things that prevent fruit in our lives, if asked for a list I don’t think many would point to silence and solitude. Yet silence and solitude provide time to till the soil of our souls. Without it the field soon becomes crowded with weeds, robbing the needed nutrients and chocking the crop. Just as fertilizer provides nutrients to strengthen a crop so solitude strengthens the soul. Silence is the place of strength for the believer, because it gives us space to set our sight on the Savior. Paul paints a powerful picture of Christian Strength in his prayer for the Ephesians 3:14-19: “I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Christian strength is the ability to know the love of God for us. Silence provides a place to set our hearts and minds on God with sufficient intensity and duration that we stay centered on Him. Many today glance at God, going to Him only when they need something. Instead of the Father being the foundation of our focus, we treat Him like a rear view mirror, glancing and giving Him only occasional attention. But if we want hearts that are steadfast and secure we need times of silence and solitude. Just as fasting is the abstinence from food for spiritual purposes, solitude is the withdrawing to privacy for spiritual purposes. There is nothing that replenishes the soul like silence and solitude, but it is not something that we naturally seem to crave. Jesus had to invite his disciples to cease their comings and goings and get away with Him. But like most things in life that don’t come naturally when we participate and practice them we soon creat a craving and a thirst for more. We all have longings in this life and when I first heard Bono’s song “Where the streets have no name” I was intrigued with his craving for something more and the picture he painted of longing.
I want to run,
I want to hide.
I want to tear down these walls
that hold me inside.
I want to reach out
and touch the flame,
Where the streets have no name
… and when I go there,
I go there with You
It’s all I can do.”
Yes we all have longings but where does The Lord rank on your list? For many instead of a longing to be alone, we often fear it, and even work hard to avoid it. We have created a culture so filled with noise that many can’t even sleep in silence, but needing noise to aid them. For many their fear of being alone drives them to noise and crowds, keeping up a steady stream of sound even if their words are inane. Look around next time your in a large city and notice the headphone covered heads. I think T. S. Eliot analyzed our culture well when he wrote, “Where shall the world be found, where will the word resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.” The truth is what we really fear is loneliness, so we try to fill it up with noise and activity. But have you ever been alone in a crowd or felt left out and lost even with the noise. The truth is that Loneliness is inner emptiness, where solitude is inner fulfillment. The extremes of loneliness or loud clatter are not our only alternatives, Jesus calls us to cultivate an inner solitude of silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear. Some don’t like to be alone because if they were honest they don’t really like their own company. Their personality has become so shaped by those around them that they don’t know who they are when they are alone. Jesus calls us to come to the refreshing rest found in silence and solitude. This is not something that Jesus prescribed but didn’t practice. Silence and solitude wasn’t just some suggested theory in the life of Christ but a practiced reality. Jesus inaugurated His ministry by spending forty days alone in the desert (Mt. 4:1—Il). Before He chose the twelve He spent the entire night alone in the desert hills (Lk.6:12). When He received the news of the death of John the Baptist, He “withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart” (Mt. 14:13). After the miraculous feeding of the five thousand Jesus made His disciples leave; then He dismissed the crowd and “went up into the hills by himself . . .“ (Mt. 14:23). Following a long night of work “in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place . . .“ (Mk. 1:35). When the twelve had returned from a preaching and healing mission, Jesus instructed them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place . . .“ (Mk. 6:31). Following the healing of a leper Jesus “withdrew to the wilderness and prayed” (Lk. 5:16). With three disciples He sought out the silence of a lonely mountain as the stage for the transfiguration (Mt. 17:1—9). As he prepared for His highest and most holy work, Jesus sought the solitude of the garden of Gethsemane (Mt. 26:36—46). One could go on, but perhaps this is sufficient to show that the seeking out of a solitary place was a regular practice with Jesus and so it should be for us.
But before we get caught up with the place of solitude we need to remember that it is not so much a place but a peace, a state of mind and heart. One of the beautiful benefits of being alone with God is our true character is revealed. If we are going to be real with the Father and ourselves then we need to get alone with Him often. In the quiet of solitude, all pretensions are striped away, the things of this life that try to mold us into their image are removed, the requirements of this world dissipate, and we can stand before God like the hymn “just as I am.” Yes for some this is scary, and yet its what we all really long for, the relief of being real, free to not be a fake, after all its not like we can defraud the Father. It is in solitude that I am reminded of the life giving lesson, that my true identity is defined by my heavenly Father and the foundational fact that I am God’s adopted, chosen son. This is the real benefit of solitude with the Savior, it cultivates a culture of authenticity, reminding us of what is real and really important. Some are unsure of what God really thinks of them, so being alone with Him seems scary, yet I know He loves me and longs to show me. Today if you are unsure get alone with God, listen to his loving voice. After all scripture tells us that one of the first things that the Holy Spirit teaches our spirit is how to say “Abba, Father” Today Jesus is calling you on a journey “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” will you come?