When Loneliness Is Good

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Luke 5:16

I work in one of the upper floors of a very large building. I was told the year it was built, it was the largest building project in the state of Vermont. It is big enough to be easily spotted from the window of a passenger jet when I am flying overhead. Though not as grand as the pyramids, or China’s Great Wall, it is a reminder of the great things humans can accomplish.

It is also a subtle reminder of the big things I am expected to accomplish as part of my job. This testimony to human accomplishment suggests my salary, the food on my table, and my career success are each dependent upon my human labors. There is an implicit (and sometimes explicit) pressure on me to “produce” and this pressure can easily lead to stress.

Jesus “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Jesus, while fully divine, also took on the fullness of humanity. During the years of his public ministry, he faced no shortage of demands. To say he was busy would be an understatement. Yet, Jesus took time to leave the crowds. He found refreshment in “lonely places.”

One important aspect of these lonely places was certainly a freedom from distractions. When we are alone, away from the crowds, it is easier to listen to God, and concentrate on what he might be trying to say to us. We can pray, or read scriptures, or just sit and listen, without constant interruption.

But there is another important element about the “lonely places” of Luke 5:16 or the “quiet waters” of the 23rd Psalm. The root word translated as “lonely place” in this passage is ERÉMOS. It can refer to a desert, or an uncultivated wilderness. Of course such places are usually quite lonely and that may be the main point. These wilderness places are not dominated by human construction and feats of engineering or even human cultivation. They are not landscapes that constantly remind us of human achievement and self-reliance.

Rather, they are places we can see more readily what God has made—how beautiful and permanent it is, and how God provides for that creation. In these places, for a moment at least, we see that everything does not depend on us.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you think being in a lonely place was refreshing for Jesus? Where do you go to find a lonely place to reflect on God’s handiwork? What does the word “wilderness” mean to you? How does being alone provide an opportunity for reflection? What is the difference between things made by God and the great accomplishments made by human hands?

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the times when you have freed me from the daily distractions of work, pressures, and life’s demands, and allowed me to experience and be refreshed by the goodness of your handiwork. Strengthen me to make the disciplined effort it takes to get out to the wilderness, the uncultivated lands, the secluded spots, and the lonely places where I can be refreshed and turn my attention to you. Amen.

Best Vacation Stories

While the stereotypical summer vacation usually involves a cabin or a beach, the vacations most of us take are much less nostalgic and far more varied than that. Or even if there is a beach or a cabin, it’s not the one we see in movies or read in books. Some of the best vacations, in fact, don’t involve packing or traveling at all; they happen in the backyard or on the front porch. At The High Calling, we’re telling some of our best vacation stories, the ones where things didn’t turn out as expected, where plans changed and so did we. So, whether you have reserved your favorite hotel or just a spot in Grandma’s spare bedroom, join us as we share what happens when we step away from everyday for vacation. And if you like these stories, why not share them with a friend or tell one of your own favorite vacation stories.

Featured image above by Robert Couse-Baker. Used with Permission. Via Flickr.