In the Quiet Wilderness
(The Importance of Solitude)
The valley has been dark that is for sure. What do I mean? Recently it seems as though if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. I do not say this to complain, but between health concerns (mental and physical), 10:31 Re-incorporation plans and everything that has been going on in my personal life I found the valley at its darkest, the darkest it has been probably since the night I got kicked out of my home church for being “Insubordinate.” I have so bitterly felt the spiritual pain that drove me for years as God began peeling back the next layer of my safety net…Fear.
It happened as everything fell apart, I started to panic, slowly slipping into depression and violent mood swings as are common with victims of spiritual abuse, I felt the relapse hit me and hit me hard. I started grasping desperately at straws and relationships, calling out to God to make it stop and then I hit rock bottom. The depression there was worse than any I can remember, the pain and struggles of all my childhood trauma, the beat downs from other kids both verbal and physical, the rejection of my father, the subtle loss of my subjectivity as I was repeatedly told I would “Screw up the service” if I did not get the PowerPoints just right. For three days I stopped feeling, went through the motions, drowned myself in metal and let myself go numb. Then on a Wednesday afternoon I had praise team practice for Sunday Morning and God, like He always does, spoke to me through music. As we sang “Oceans” I felt a wave of relief wash over me and I knew what I had been doing…I had let the fear win, I had let my past defeat me, I had let my gaze wonder off my savior and then I had started slipping, like Peter, below the waves.
I was afraid
But God is not one to leave us alone, and there is no where we can fall that He cannot catch us. So I downloaded Max Lucado’s book “Fearless: Imagine your life without fear.” Every chapter described me, every word was a hammer on the chains of fear of failing, fear of rejection, fear of being alone. God was changing my heart, stripping back and beginning to do the healing work that needed to be done…I saw no more giants, instead I saw my savior, lifting me up, setting the bone and taking away the fear.
A week goes by and I begin to feel God call me out into the wilderness. I’d been there before, right after Denver when I had cut off so many relationships and added few new ones. The wilderness where God started that healing work, on the mountain side in Colorado where God started to peel back everything, the first time my savior showed me I had a future and a hope, that this burned out kid from Ohio had much more to live for than the pain of the past. As I went through the first semester of my junior year I had a closeness and a contentedness from God that I had never felt before, a Joy that stayed.
It occurs to me that we often talk about the wilderness as a place we do not want to be. After all: Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness was He not? People were attacked, starve and die in the wilderness, yet the wilderness can also be a good place for our spiritual walks. Remember John came from the wilderness and baptized, other than Christ, John seems to have the best understanding of who he is as “The voice calling out in the wilderness.” After Jesus temptation He is ministered too in the wilderness. So why do we consider it a bad thing? Because wilderness often means solitude, Anthony of Egypt lived in the wilderness, alone, St. Francis lived in the wilderness alone for a time. Yet Solitude and loneliness are two things we cannot get confused, they are different. Loneliness says you are alone, Solitude is meant to be, in the Christian tradition a quiet place spent with God.
Yet we do not view it as a good thing. Our culture shuns any type of introversion or inactivity. People who are not doing something at all times are considered lazy. Yet Solitude requires of us to do just that, nothing, but spend time with God. To spend time away from those things that have brought us down and to give us a quiet place to rest and to find that rest in Christ alone.
The wilderness is also a good place to reflect and listen to God. We may gain a new sense of direction, or even a new direction entirely for our lives. It teaches us to rely solely on the God who wants what is best for us. Sometimes that will be times when friends are abundant and sometimes that will be in the wilderness, when we pull back from a lot of personal relationships and simply focus on our relationship with God. Notice I did not say end relationships, I said pull back, be less involved and take care of ourselves before the throne of the almighty.
In the middle of trial, when the seas are stormy and the outlook gloomy sometimes we need to just realize that Christ is the calmer of storms and the light of the skies. That though there is much pain in our lives, and the separation that entering into the wilderness will inevitably cause more pain. Yet the same God who brought us through the valley is with us in the wilderness and He will carry us through. The wilderness is not a place to reflect on our brokenness but to dwell in the presence of our savior.
Will this possibly hurt others? Yes, but that is unavoidable, if God is calling you to the quiet place then Go. Explain to them why you are doing it and pray that God gives them understanding.
Some of the greatest moments of my relationship with God have been spent in the dessert. The time I get in the word of God in these times is always so rich! And though things are rough by the grace of God you will get through, when we find our rest in Him we will find our peace in Him. When we focus on the things of God the God of peace dwells within us (Phil 4:9) and we are much better off.
Jonathan David Faulkner is the executive director and founder of 10:31 Life Ministries, as well as heavily involved in music, preaching and mentoring in his local community.