Herald Journal Columns
Jan. 10, 2005, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Silent snowflakes call to our need for solitude

By Pastor Paul Friberg, Berean Baptist Church, Glencoe

I grew up in Chicago, and my first job, as a boy, was to deliver newspapers early in the morning.

The city can be a very loud and busy place. But, early in the morning, it can be very quiet and still, almost quiet enough to hear snowflakes fall.

In reality, we cannot hear snowflakes fall, but we welcome the experience of such stillness in an otherwise very busy place because it answers our need for solitude and quietness.

Feeling the need to get away is depicted in airline commercials on TV. They show someone in an unfortunate situation, with the caption, “Do you ever feel the need to get away?” posted on the screen in big, bold letters.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus models for us this need for solitude. In chapter 6, after a very exciting mission trip, Jesus instructs His disciples by saying, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So many people were coming and going that the disciples did not even have a chance to eat (Mark 6:31).

Many times, life can get so busy that we don’t even take care of ourselves. Because Jesus was aware of the needs of His disciples, as well as His own physical needs, He invited His disciples to rest.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

So, why is it that many times, we do not experience this quietness or solitude?

The main reason is that we are overbooked. This may be a profitable scenario for the airline business, but it is disastrous in our personal lives. God designed us to enjoy quietness. We function better when we have times of solitude.

Another reason we do not experience this quietness or solitude is that we may not be accustomed to quietness. Some people may function better with some noise. I have met several students who study best with a radio on.

Face it; silence can be scary. I took some inner-city kids to a Bible camp one summer. Many of the kids did not like being in the country because there were no streetlights and no noise, something they were not used to. The quietness of the countryside was disturbing to them, and somewhat “spooky.”

We cannot feed this God-designed need for solitude with the leftovers of a busy schedule. It will not work. We will continue to be hungry, tired, and irritable.

What is needed for solitude to occur is to schedule time for it. We cannot be the people God wants us to be without times of quietness and stillness in our lives.

So how do we do it? How do we get some of this solitude in our lives?

When my kids and I go to McDonald’s, they have three sizes of fries to choose from – small, medium, and large. We will use McDonald’s fries to remind us of three choices for solitude.

Small-size solitude/fries: Take some time by yourself and turn off the TV, computer, and cell phones for 20 minutes and be quiet before God. No media, no disruptions, just you and God.

Read what Psalm 46:10 says: “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Twenty minutes is a goal we can all attain if we plan for it.

Now for the medium-size solitude/fries: This would require a little more planning. It is when you take several hours and get away.

When Jesus told his disciples to come and rest, it was for more then a 20-minute scheduled break. Medium-size fries would be getting away for several hours; no children, no interruptions, nothing but you, your Bible, and God.

My lovely wife home schools our three grade school children. Between schooling, the phone, and being a pastor’s wife, things can get a little hairy.

Going away is not what she desires. She would rather be given time at home, alone in quietness and solitude. She appreciates when I take the kids out all day and she can catch up at home and spend time with the Lord in her own comfort zone.

For us husbands, this may be what the doctor ordered. Again, this may take a little planning on our part, but it is worth it.

Large-size solitude/fries would be getting away overnight at a hotel or campground. Go away to a place to pray and read the Bible.

Jesus was very popular while on the earth. Look at how He handled popularity: “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16).

Sometimes, we need to withdraw to a lonely place to pray. Maybe you know of an old hunting cabin where you can find retreat, or you may have a favorite bed and breakfast in mind. Whatever it may be, schedule it in. It is worth the investment.

As we enter a new year, have you noticed all the new calendars? It seems that everyone is giving them away. I have received one from the bank, my insurance company, and even one that is a magnet that sticks on the refrigerator.

Before your calendars get overbooked with too many activities, make sure you schedule time for solitude on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis, keeping in mind the different sizes of fries.

Why is solitude so important? It is a time to hear God speak. It is hard to hear Him with all the many distractions around us. It also provides us with an opportunity to focus our thoughts on God and gain His perspective on life.

The winter season is conducive to solitude and quietness. So, grab a cup of hot chocolate and get in front of a hot fireplace and spend time with God.

Perhaps you will hear a snowflake fall.

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