At a Christian church camp I attended there were a series of various talks given on different aspects of the Christian life. One of the talks had to do with quiet time or times of solitude spent with God. It was an interesting talk which raised the importance of time spent with God and how much of a priority this is in our lives.
Important questions were also raised and discussed about what does it mean to be in solitude, how do we do it, and what is the purpose in doing it? And there was raised the question, why do we find it so hard to be in solitude? It is this question I’d like to address here because I believe it is at the heart of why our Christian lives often lack close intimacy with God and as a result why there can be a lack of knowledge as to who God is and why we do not believe in him as much as we could or trust in him as assuredly as we should. On the level of sanctification it is also why we are not as loving as we could be to those both in the church and outside. So what reasons do we usually give for finding it hard to be in solitude?
(1) We are too busy and never seem to have the time. With work, family, friends, church ministries, sports, and other commitments, the time available is limited and we just never seem to have enough time to do all the things we want to do. How am I going to find time to be alone when so many people and things need my attention? So one of the reasons we give for not spending time with God is a lack of time, or business.
(2) While spending time with God is important there are equally as important things such as caring for other people, loving them, helping them in word and deed. So the desire to be in fellowship, caring for and loving brothers and sisters, as well those who are non-believers takes up a lot of our time. And after all aren’t we doing what Jesus really wants us to be doing by spending as much time with the church family, and those who are outside the church as we possibly can? So another reason we give for not spending time with God is because of the need for fellowship and building relationships.
(3) Some say that spending time in solitude is easier for an introvert but I am an extrovert and I find it really hard. I’m just not wired the same way as those introverts, and while it comes naturally for them to be alone with God, for me, being the people person I am, I find it hard to be in a silent place with God. So another reason we give for not spending time with God is because we are wired in a certain way that makes it hard.
(4) For many of us we find it hard to go to God because of our sin and the sense of shame and guilt that we feel. We look at ourselves and look at a holy God and think how can I be with him after what I have done. I just don’t deserve to be with him. I don’t measure up. I don’t belong with him. I’m so sinful, so much of a rebel, so guilty. The last place I should be is with God. And so another reason we give is because we feel that we are too sinful, too unholy, too unrighteous, too unworthy to be with God.
(5) Maybe we see God in a certain way. Maybe we have had a less than ideal relationship with our own father. He was always angry with them. He was distant. Never seemed to love them very much. Never seemed to care. He was there but never involved. And so we see God in the same light. We cast the way our earthly fathers related to us onto God. And so God is angry with me especially when I sin. He is never pleased with anything I do. He never seems to care. He doesn’t seem to love us very much. He is there but never intimate always distant. He is a judge but never the loving father. And so another important reason for not spending time with God is how we see him and how we think he sees us.
So these are some of the reasons we give for not being able to be in solitude. Another question arises. Are they valid? Are these good reasons for why we should not spend time with God?
Are these Good Reasons?
(1) While it is true that we are busy (some are busier than others) we can generally find time for things such as watching a movie, reading a good book, going fishing or tramping, going on a holiday, having a coffee with a friend, playing sports, playing and listening to music and many other activities, yet we are too busy to spend time with God. It’s not a matter of time but it is a matter of priority. Too often we just don’t find God important enough compared with all the other things in life that we can spend time on. So we never make the time though we make time for so many other things. And as a consequence we simply don’t meet with him.
(2) While Jesus taught that we are to love one another with the same love with which he has loved us, it is not the most important priority he gives to the Christian. When the lawyer asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus replied to him,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
How can a person love God in this way if they do spend time with him? And how are they going to love other people unless they spend time with God to hear from him and be changed by him so that they are able to love them as they should? Too often we place the horse before the cart. We put people before God rather than God before people. In other words we find time with people more important than time with God. The most important priority that Jesus gives to the Christian is to be with God and to love him as he loves them and from this the fruit of love towards others grows.
(3) It is simply not true that it is easy or even easier for an introvert to spend time with God. It is just as easy for an introvert to avoid spending time with God by doing things by themselves as it is for an extrovert to avoid spending time with God by doing things with other people. It is not true that one is more wired to be spend time with God than another. We are wired the same way. We would rather do pretty much about anything else apart from spending quiet time with God.
(4) In Jesus Christ all our sins are forgiven. God the Father forgives us for the sins of the past, present and future, because Jesus Christ died for them. There on the cross the great transaction took place. Jesus took our sin, bore the punishment, and he gave us his perfect righteous obedience. We are forgiven and we are as righteous as Jesus Christ. We are free to come. In fact God wants us to come. He wants to spend time with his righteous children all of who he calls saints. The greatest pleasure for God is to spend time with you and me because as we spend time with him we enjoy him and as we enjoy him he is glorified and when he is glorified that is his greatest pleasure.
(5) The relationships with our earthly fathers are not as loving as, faithful as, caring, and as close as they could be because they are fallible. They are sinful fathers and because of this they fail us in more ways than one. They say they will be there and they are not. They say they love us only to hit us for no good reason. We try to be close with them and they just want to push us away. So our relationships with our fathers are often hurtful rather than loving.
But this is quite different from God the Father. He loved us even when we did not love him so much so that he sent his Son to die for us. He loves us now with as much intensity and intimacy as he loves his own Son. He adopted us when there was nothing in us that would catch his eye so that he would adopt us. This love which is from one who is always caring, faithful, merciful, forgiving and full of grace has nothing to do with our deserving it or earning it. God loves us because he is our Father and we are his children. Where our earthly fathers have let us down and caused us hurt God the Father can never let his children down nor does he ever do that which will hurt his children. All that God does is for the good those who love him. Therefore the Christian can go in confidence to him.
The Real Reasons
To end I believe there are three main ultimate reasons why we find it hard to spend time with God. These lie behind all the other reasons we put up as to why we find it hard to be in solitude and they are at the heart of the matter when it comes to answering the question, why? So here are the deeper reasons (the reasons behind the reasons) for why I believe we find it hard to spend time with God.
Loved by God
The first ultimate reason is we do not fully realize how much God loves us. If we did we would know how much God enjoys being with us. Too often the Christian sees God as loving and hating him. Loving him when he does good. Hating him when he does bad. Wanting to be with him when he does the right things. Being disappointed to the point that he can’t stand the sight of him when he does the wrong things. And so we have two coats in our closet. One says, “I am a good person and God loves me” and we wear this when we are doing the right things and we are making positive progress with old sins. The other coat says, “I am a bad person and God does not love me” and we wear this when we are not doing so well when it comes to doing the right things and when we fall back into old sins.
The truth is there is only one coat that God has given us to wear and this coat says, “you are greatly loved.” This coat is permanently to be worn. We can try and take it off but God will only put it back on again. It is the identity God has given us in Jesus Christ. And this identity is based upon the commitment God has made towards us in Jesus Christ and has nothing whatsoever to do with how we are doing or how we are feeling. He freely and joyfully loves us not just some of the time, say when our obedience is pretty good and we think we are measuring up, but all of the time. When we see ourselves in this way we will want to spend time with him. Here are some scriptures that talk about God’s love for you in Jesus Christ;
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.”
“God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“In this the love of God was manifest towards us, that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)
Know that for God the Father to send his Son to die and for Jesus to go through all that he went through the Father and the Son must really love you. Go and be with them.
Love for God
The second ultimate reason is we do not love God as we should. It is not that we do not love God at all. No one can be a Christian apart from love for God. But it is because we do not love him enough. That is why we cannot make the time to spend with him. Instead we let other things come in and steal away the time we could be spending with him. That is why we find time with people far important than time with God. That is why introverts are so easily drawn to do other things alone, and why extroverts are drawn to do other things with people, rather than being intentional, and being with God. It is, when all is said and done because we do not love him enough. It is to do with our hearts and how important and how great a priority we see our relationship with God. When we place love for God above all other loves we will find the time, we will be intentional, and we will spend more time with God.
“Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
The highest priority for the Christian is to know God. This is why we were created, to know God and through knowing him enjoy him and glorify him forever. It’s seems so important then that we start to know him now as the treasure that he is if we want to be happy and bring glory to him. For as the Psalmist wrote,
“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
and at your right hand are pleasures forever more.”
Love for People
In the course of life we all meet up with brothers and sisters for coffee, or for a meal, or some other activity, but ask yourself how often do you talk about God? How well equipped are you to speak the truth of the bible? Do you speak about such things in such a way that you get to the heart of where they are at? Do you encourage them from the scriptures and remind them of the gospel and who they are in Christ? Do you remind them that God loves them? It is possible to meet up with people and never speak anything of any eternal good and of no spiritual depth but have conversation after conversation without ever getting to God. But what people need most is God. They need to hear about him constantly, especially his love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy for them.
But how are we going to speak such truths if we do not spend time with God to get to know him? How are we going to point people to Christ if we do not spend time with him? So the final reason is that we do not realize the benefit our time with God has for others. If we did we would spend more time with God. And so we need to see solitude not only as being for us but also as being for those who we love. It is from spending time with God that we are better able to speak the truth about God and Christ into their lives, and so we love them by pointing them to the one they need the most.