Surrendering to Solitude

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands…”   –1 Thessalonians 4: 11

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” –John 3: 8

“He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”             –Psalm 23: 2B-3A

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” –Galatians 6: 2

Practicing solitude is not optional in the work of administering heart-healing counseling. To bear the burdens of others’ deep hurts can be emotionally draining. An ever-present danger is that the counselor will grow complacent, that the heavy loads of injured persons will be simply observed rather than felt. Surrendering to quiet times before God brings renewal of compassion.

Webster’s dictionary defines compassion as sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of another or others, accompanied by an urge to help. Throughout the Bible God is portrayed as compassionate. In the Gospels, Jesus is repeatedly described as full of compassion. In 2 Corinthians 1: 3, Paul praises the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. Compassion is the fuel that drives a person in heart-healing ministry.

In order to keep our hearts aligned with God and others we must first be at peace with ourselves. The emotions of sorrow, anger, and emotional pain we share with the people who come for prayer coupled with our inability to “fix” destructive behaviors and tragic circumstances for them, can cause us to question our beliefs and calling. One must have a clear theology of suffering in his own mind, or the unfair agony experienced by broken people in heart healing sessions will create bitterness at God for the horrors of this world.  Counselors must be convinced of God’s compassion before they can bring it to others.

A sufferer’s sin can bring our own into sharp relief. This is as it should be since it is imperative we stay willing to face personal disconnections, losses, and wrongdoing. Daily quiet time in thoughtfulness and meditation with God helps us regain balance to meet others at their point of need.

Practicing solitude hones our ability to be in the moment. This discipline is essential in heart-healing work, and is the opposite of performing for acceptance. It means forcing ourselves to let go of everything but the minute we are experiencing. Unless we can discipline ourselves to release control of all but our awareness in the present, we will be unable to relax and discern God’s will when healing is taking place.

We must become like little children in that we are able to stay observant in the here-and-now without becoming self-conscious. Excessive self-consciousness prevents the sensing of God’s direction. If we are unable in our daily lives to stop “performing” and simply “be there” before God, it is highly unlikely we will be able to do so in a healing session. In a way, through solitude we learn to be now here rather than nowhere.

We all need support from family and friends; we need fun activities and times of play; we need to keep learning from the Bible and other books; we need to take care of our personal needs; and we need to set aside time nearly every day when we are separated to God. It is during these intervals, when the distractions of our outer lives are minimized, that we can center on the eternal in our heart. It’s almost as if He comes beside us as we slow to coasting, removes the cap on the tank, connects the hose, and does mid trip refueling.

If we let our tank get too low, we can’t stay en route much longer. When energy stores fall to critical level, we will stall in the road and may get hit from behind. Crashing not only hurts us, but those around us. We don’t want to risk that. If our compassion flags, we can wound the very ones who have sought our help. Solitude fires the engines of compassion.

Surrendering to solitude is not easy in our activity-obsessed culture. There will always be siren songs from the media and the endless demands of modern life. We must, however, understand that without the compassion of Christ gained in times of aloneness we are not only impotent but we may be dangerous.