I’m weary with these lockdown restrictions that keep us isolated from one another, and I’m weary with Zoom. I long to gather as church again. Catching the eye of a fellow worshipper adoring our Saviour and linking hearts with friends as we sing is to me like a health tonic for my whole person. Sensing the sacrifice of praise from the hurting and grieving and feeling the warmth of one another’s presence washes over like a healing balm.
This pandemic must be especially hard for those living by themselves without family or bubble. With cafes shut and home visits forbidden walking one on one, well wrapped up against our winter cold, is the only option. On freezing days the fear of slipping on black ice, the threat of a broken wrist and trip to A&E will keep older folk indoors. No, people living alone are having a lonely time.
Silence and Solitude
A friend of mine recently returned home to Hong Kong. Immediately she was tagged and quarantined in a small hotel room for 21 days! Rather than see it as enforced solitary confinement, Betsy took it as a gift from the Lord and decided to intentionally spend some days in a spiritual retreat with God.
During lockdown many Christians are exploring the ancient discipline of Silence and Solitude.
There’s a big difference between simply being alone and experiencing solitude with God. When we’re by ourselves we normally fill every moment with activities or distractions. It’s so hard for us to leave aside the mobile and laptop, TV and radio and just be quiet. Why do we resist the silence? Perhaps we’re afraid, for the noise is not just outside ourselves but inside too.
Elijah’s head and heart were full of noise, so much so, he wanted to die. There was acute disappointment and even self condemnation that his dramatic triumph over the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel had not brought the revival he’d expected. Queen Jezebel was raging not repenting. He was weary in well doing, felt utterly alone; fear and panic overtook him and leaving his post he fled into the wilderness. How kind of the Lord to send an angel with a gentle touch, a meal and more sleep which he would need for his journey to a life changing encounter on the Mountain of God (1 Kings 19).
The Secret Place
Like Moses before him when the people had turned to idolatry and despair was heavy upon him, Elijah needs to see God’s glory and he retreats to the cleft in the rock. There the question comes twice, “What are you doing here?” God is saying in effect, “Tell me all about it, Elijah.” When we’re alone with God it takes time to get to the real heart issue and articulate it even to ourselves. Twice Elijah states his case and cries; “I alone am left” (1Kings 19:10,14). It’s in the silence that he finds God’s voice and his answer.
Christ is our secret hiding place, our cleft in the rock, where we find stillness and know God (Colossians 3:3). It’s safe to face and deal with the noise within, for as we wait before him there are no demands, no pressure to perform, to say or do the right thing, to pray the right prayers. We need have no secrets, but are naked in heart and unafraid because we’re known through and through and yet utterly loved.
In this age of distraction and limited concentration spans, spending time in this way with God and his Word is vital if we are to truly know him and radiate a peace and tranquility that those around us crave.
Through these times we will find solace in an intimate friendship with God, but we are people who were made for human relationship too. Even before sin entered the world God said of Adam, “It’s not good to be alone”.
God understands. He knew Elijah needed to change perspective, see the big picture, and know God had a plan. There were 6,999 more followers than he was aware of, but Elijah also needed a special friend. God renewed his call to service, clarified his mission and gave him Elisha.
Friendship with God and friendship with one another are both important. So, we must keep walking, talking and even zooming …… for now.