Are you going crazy with the holidays around the corner? Too much to do and not enough time? December is a busy month and with the year’s end looming, it feels like an appropriate time to carve out some solitude.
As I was looking up the definition of solitude, I came across the word “solicitude” which means: anxious care, carefulness, anxiety, eager uneasiness of mind lest some desired thing may not be obtained or some apprehended evil may happen–The American Heritage Dictionary. I’m afraid this is the state too many of us are living in regularly.
In contrast, is the word solitude, which the Collins dictionary defines as: the state of being alone, especially when this is peaceful and pleasant. Solitude is certainly the preferred state. Who doesn’t like peace and pleasantness over anxiety?
But how is quietness or solitude strength, as proclaimed by Isaiah in the Bible? Haven’t we been told repeatedly that the squeaky wheel gets the grease? Make noise! Be noticed!
Do, do, do……….don’t let up or someone else will get ahead of you. The ping-ding of our computers and phones reminds us the world of technology is constantly vying for our attention. The responsibilities of our daily lives surround and overwhelm us. Busyness is worn as a badge of honor.
“The Lord said to St. Teresa one day, ‘I would speak to many souls, but the world makes so much noise in their ears that they cannot hear My voice. Oh, if only they would stand a little apart from the world!’ ”
We can let Jesus be our example. Such greatness and strength was born in a stable in the stillness and dark of night…..quietly, softly, barely noticed, except by three wise men and some nearby animals.
He appeared helpless and weak as a babe in his mother’s arms but yet He was ever so strong as the Savior of the world, Almighty and powerful…..come to change our hearts and save us.
For God to put Himself in this lowly state, He must have been trying to tell us something. Things are not always as they initially appear.
So we draw our strength from God and the stillness helps us know Him and hear His voice.
The saints knew a state of quietness and solitude is needed to refuel ourselves, just as a car needs gas. A car also needs someone to steer. Quiet time helps us see more clearly out of the windshield of our lives so we can steer ourselves in a better direction. Stepping away from the world in quietness strengthens us for the journey ahead.
Solitude can open us up to new thoughts and ideas and helps remove the clutter in our lives. We may see things we wouldn’t have otherwise, or come up with the solution to our problems after some quiet reflection.
When we are frenzied, we can’t always think straight or make the best decisions. We need to try to come from an inmost place of solitude.
We always get to know someone better when we spend time alone with them. God is no exception.
When you are sick, the doctor often prescribes rest to promote healing…..so too with stillness. It lets us find the ultimate Healer who heals not only our body but our souls.
So what are some ways we can find solitude in our lives?
8 WAYS TO ENCOURAGE SOLITUDE
Meditate or pray.
Use repetitive prayer such as the Rosary which many Catholics find meditative and soothing. I also find it gives me something to focus on, which helps quiet my mind.
Try repetitive music like Taize or Gregorian Chant. Churches of various denominations sometimes offer Taize prayer. Being one of my favorite ways to invoke solitude, I have personally experienced Taize prayer at Episcopalian, Lutheran and Catholic churches. The music can also be found on Youtube and elsewhere to use at home.
Read the Bible or an inspirational book. Or practice lectio divina (divine reading) which is repeated reading of a Bible verse and letting it speak to you. More information can be found here.
Take a walk in nature.
Journaling is a great way to collect your thoughts or pour out your frustrations. It is also a great way to view your progress (or lack of it!) over the years.
If you are near a Catholic church with Adoration, that is the ultimate place of silence before God. There is no other choice but to be silent in the church before the very presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist as seen in the monstrance. (It can also be a good time to journal when thoughts come to you.) Here is a very beautiful video about what happens in adoration produced by Fr. Mike Schmitz of Ascension Presents.
If you have kids, get away into another room by yourself for a while. Bathrooms are great for this! You could soak in the tub if you have someone to watch the kids. Learning to find stillness amidst all the madness is probably a good idea at this stage of life.
And don’t forget, even Jesus took time to get away from the crowds to pray and be quiet. Matt. 14:23; Luke 5:15-16
If you can’t find time to practice solitude daily, and most of us probably can’t, at least try to practice solitude as often as you are able or feel the need. It will help you refuel and gather strength to carry on.
So what best refuels you? Hopefully we can all find some much needed solitude not only during the holidays but in all the seasons of life. May we continually try to focus on Christ and draw our strength from Him as He refreshes our soul.
He will keep those in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on Him
Have you ever prayed for something for years? Were your prayers answered? Were they answered the way you hoped?
There is a popular saying — Prayer Changes Things. Does it?
St. Monica, a patron saint of mothers, prayed for her son to turn from his ungodly lifestyle for 17 years. He turned out to be the influential St. Augustine who has impacted millions throughout the ages and is the author of numerous written works. Not all stories end this well, but nevertheless, it speaks to perseverance in prayer and a mother’s love.
Then there was Sarah in the Old Testament (Genesis 17:15-19) who was barren and well past child-bearing years. God promised her a child but in her impatience, she made some mistakes along the way. Then at God’s appointed time, it miraculously happened, despite all odds.
This gives us hope for perseverance in prayer. If it’s in God’s will, nothing will stop it.
I have had occasions where it has taken years for a specific prayer to be answered–for a mate, for a child and so on. When I fervently persevered in prayer for a child, I got triplets. God has a funny sense of humor. Mother Teresa said, “More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.” Keep that in mind. Be careful what you pray for.
Yet what do we do when the years roll by and our prayers aren’t answered in a timely way or as we would hope? This is when we need to consider the journey. Prayer is not just about asking, it’s about relationship, a relationship with our Creator. We can ponder: What have we learned on this journey? How has this period of waiting changed us?
We learn patience for one thing.
We learn to trust God’s plan and timing. (as if we have a choice!)
We grow closer to God by spending more time with Him.
We increase our faith.
We learn to keep trudging along and come to realize all the other blessings in our life we continue to have, as well as receive, while we wait.
We learn an openness and receptiveness to whatever God may have for us. It could be something we didn’t even expect or light years better than what we could have hoped.
Sometimes, we need to just pray for the strength to get through whatever our trial is, which can then change our attitude and ability to cope, if not the situation itself. So we gain an acceptance of the situation. Thy will be done, all the while learning to cast our cares upon Him.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
We trust that God loves us and knows what we need. Proverbs 3:5 tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” God sees the future we cannot see. He has the blueprints.
And this is just on a personal level. What about the bigger picture? People throughout the ages have had to pray for years, often decades, for their country to return to freedom or more recently, for Roe v. Wade to be overturned.
Some of these world issues require the prayers of a great many people over a large span of time and most of them will not even live to see the fruits of their efforts. But it must be done, to improve all of our lives and to save the future of humanity. We must have faith that prayer, does indeed, change things.
In the end, we will be strengthened from our journey through perseverance in prayer. We will become what God is molding us to be through His plan and purpose for us. He does not wish to do us harm but desires for us to grow and strengthen our relationship with Him. At times that means He has to put us through trials and waiting so that we can learn valuable lessons. Just as a loving father teaches his children and gives them what they need, yet does not always give them everything they want. Ultimately, we learn that if we cling to the God who made us and persevere, in the end, prayer does change things!
“Do not be troubled if you do not receive from God immediately what you ask Him; for he desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to him in prayer.”