Thoughts on Solitude

Today I thought I’d post what others have to say about the practice of solitude:

“The invitation to solitude and silence is just that. It is an invitation to enter more deeply into the intimacy of relationship with the One who waits just outside the noise and busyness of our lives.  It is an invitation to communication and communi9n with the One who is always present even when our awareness has been dulled by distraction. It is an invitation to the adventure of spiritual transformation in the deepest places of our being, an adventure that will result in greater freedom and authenticity and surrender to God than we have yet experienced.” (Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Silence and Solitude, p.18).

 “Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.” (Paul Tillich)

“All  the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they can’t stay quietly in their own room.”  (Blaise Pascal)

“Wise followers of Christ have always understood solitude to be the foundational practice. Jesus engaged in it frequently. But what makes it so important? Solitude is the one place where we gain freedom from the forces of society that otherwise relentlessly mold us.” (John Ortberg)

“To enter into solitude and silence is to take the spiritual life seriously. It is to take seriously our need to quite the noise of our lives, to cease the constant striving of human effort, to pull away from our absorption in human relationships for a time in order to give God our undivided attention” (Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Silence and Solitude, p.34-37).

“God is infinitely patient He will not push himself into our lives. He knows the greatest thing he has given us is our freedom. If we want habitually, even exclusively, to operate from the level of our own reason, he will respectfully keep silent. We can fill ourselves with our own thoughts, ideas, images, and feelings. He will not interfere. But if we invite him with attention, opening the inner spaces with silence, he will speak to our souls, not in words or concepts, but in the mysterious way that Love expresses itself-by presence” (M. Basil Pennigton, Centered Living).

“Without solitude, it is virtually impossible to live the spiritual life.”  Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Direction, p. x.

“If the release of Christ within empowers the life of intimacy, solitude provides the context in which we experience that release. In other words, how can anyone whose life is consumed with the relentless rush and hurry of modern life have intimacy with God? We live in a world that disallows any centering in on God.” (Richard L. Dresselhaus, “Three Miles From the Coffee”, article in Enrichment Journal)

“No one can expect to have a life in which God lives and moves and has his being, I believe, unless he or she regularly experiences solitude. The Gospel writers took the trouble to record Jesus taking huge chunks of time away from ministry and people (Matt. 4:1-11; 14:13, 23; 17:1-9; 26:36-46 Mark 6:31; Luke 5:16; 6:12).  Why?  I don’t believe Jesus did this to be a good example or because he’d picked up messages on his machine that God expected it. I believe Jesus practiced solitude because he loved being alone with God — “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).” (Jan Johnson) 

“We need silence to be alone with God, to speak to him, to listen to him, to ponder his words deep in our heart.  We need to be alone with God in silence to be renewed and transformed.  Silence give us a new outlook on life.  In it we are filled with the energy of God himself that makes us do all things with joy.”  (Mother Teresa)

“One of the most sobering things I have learned about myself is that I can be very, very busy and look very, very important, but can at the same time have lost my ability to hear the voice of the One who calls me the beloved in quiet, sure tones.  When that happens I’ve lost touch with that pace in the center of my being where I know who I am in God, I know what I cam called to do and am responsive to his voice above all others.  Than I am at the mercy of all manner of external and internal forces, tossed, and turned by others’ expectations and my inner compulsions.”  (R. Foster, Devotional Classics, p. 95-96.)

 “When we enter into solitude to be with God alone, we quickly discover how dependent we are. Without the many distractions of our daily lives, we feel anxious and tense. When nobody speaks to us, calls on us, or needs our help, we start feeling like nobodies. Then we begin wondering whether we are useful, valuable, and significant. Our tendency is to leave this fearful solitude quickly and get busy again to reassure ourselves that we are “somebodies.” But that is a temptation, because what makes us somebodies is not other people’s responses to us but God’s eternal love for us.

To claim the truth of ourselves we have to cling to our God in solitude as to the One who makes us who we are.” (Henry Nouwen)

God-focused solitude will bring us to a place where God can mold us and transform us from the inside out. However, to sit quietly enough and long enough to hear God’s voice is not easy. In fact, stopping and quieting ourselves, and limiting distraction is sheer discipline.  Especially when nothing seems to be happening. Yet, even when we our times of silence and solitude are fraught with distractions, inner restlessness, preoccupations, boredom, or personal anxieties, I think just our showing up pleases God. 





  1. […] if the practice of silence and solitude invites us to make room in our overly-scheduled, distracted, anxious lives where we choose to […]


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