Solitude and Spiritual Formation
This post is by Emily Ellis. Emily is the publishing team leader of magazines and devotionals at LifeWay. Originally from Boston, Emily went to college in Nashville, seminary in Chicago, studied Hebrew in Israel, and eventually found her way back to Nashville.
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Solitude and Spiritual Formation
I graduated from seminary in 2008 and started my job search in one of the weakest job markets in recent American history. Needless to say, my search was filled with anxiety. I spent hours every day poring over company websites and job postings, growing more discouraged with each unanswered resume submission. I contacted everyone I knew who could help me find a job, but nothing seemed to be working. Doors kept slamming shut in my face.
Months later, after all my failed efforts had left me completely drained and discouraged, I opened my Bible and the Lord led me to this verse: “You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence” (Isaiah 30:15).
In Isaiah 30, God rebuked the people of Judah for seeking the help of the Egyptians in the midst of the Assyrian threat instead of going to Him. “They set out to go down to Egypt without asking My advice,” God said (v. 2, emphasis added). In other words, Judah’s fear drove them to seek every avenue of help except for the one that could actually help them.
That’s exactly what I was doing. I was so consumed with finding a job that the idea of seeking the Lord — listening, praying, reading His Word — seemed, quite frankly, like a waste of time. I didn’t want to spend my time “resting” when I needed to be “doing.” And when I did make time for God, it was only because I felt I needed to check that off my list of things good Christians do.
But as God ministered to me through Isaiah 30, He graciously showed me that “returning and resting” — solitude with Him — is a posture of surrender and faith, not laziness or duty. It’s an admission that I’m not in control, but I’m humbling myself before the One who is and recognizing my dependence on Him.
Not only did God strengthen me in that season and eventually deliver me from it, He also transformed me through it. As I spent time at the feet of Jesus, meditating on His Word and communing with Him, my focus slowly started to shift off myself and what I needed to do and onto Jesus and what He has already done. As my perspective changed, I found rest for my tired and anxious soul.
Oftentimes, Christians see daily time with the Lord as just one more thing to do in our already busy schedules. But when we start to recognize solitude for what it is — a precious gift of time with Jesus, time when we can intentionally shut out the distractions of this world in order to rest, receive, and be transformed as we gaze upon His glory — we’ll realize our desperate need for it; we’ll intentionally carve out time to enter into what the psalmist calls “the secret place.”
And the Lord will meet us there.
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1, KJV).