Loneliness and Solitude are two completely different things. You might be reading this and thinking, “No Duh!” However, most people fear the practice of solitude because they fear being alone and we attach being alone to loneliness. I have not done many studies on this, nor do I suffer from depression (or at least not that I know of). However, I have learned from my own experience that the feelings of loneliness I feel are usually a result of my circumstances. For example, right now I have that feeling of loneliness. For many years I worked in teams with people as a part of a church staff. Planning. Dreaming. Strategising. Praying together. Now I am half way around the world planting a youth missions movement. Yes I have support from my organisation, yes I have my family here, yes I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. But, I am mostly working by myself. I have been here four months. Its tough to make all new friends. My feelings of loneliness derive from my circumstance. I don’t have a team I regularly work with. I miss my friends and family. I miss the camaraderie of shared vision with a team.
All that to say I had a thought yesterday. How could I turn my loneliness into solitude? You see solitude is a choice. It’s a disciple to quiet your soul, turn off the noise and learn to hear the voice of God. So what if I can take those moments when loneliness sets in and turn it into solitude? I don’t need to fear being alone because solitude is about pushing myself into the presence of my heavenly Father. My friend Kyle told me that its in solitude we wrestle with the aching question, “Is God really enough?”
So I wonder if it is as easy as changing my perspective. A shift from loneliness to solitude. Pushing through all the noise and being able to quiet our souls allows us the opportunity to hear the one who calls us beloved child. He is the one who speaks life into our living. But I suppose easy isn’t the word I would use to describe the difficult transition that needs to take place from loneliness to solitude.
Solitude is a choice however. You see I could choose to try and numb my loneliness by reading the news and checking Facebook to see what everyone else is doing in an attempt to feel a part of peoples lives. In the end that actually feeds the feelings of loneliness. I can try to ignore it by filling it with all kinds of activity whether it be work or play. At the end of the day when I put my head on the pillow it is still there. I can try to replace the loneliness with what the world has to offer but that leads to destruction. Instead I’ll try to choose solitude. I’ll ask for guidance. I’ll ask him what he thinks of me. I’ll be reminded he is a jealous God. His love endures forever. He is close to the broken hearted. Slow to anger and abounding in love. And… to be reminded that the greatest blessing in this life is his presence.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Matthew 5:3-9 (NIV)