There are times when it seems natural to fellowship and worship with others. There are times when we need to gather with others reluctantly, because church takes time away from our schedule. And then there are times when we must be alone and seek God in solitude. The answers that others give to our problems may seem too simplistic. Our faith is challenged and something in our soul realizes that we need solitude. It is okay – in fact a requirement for spiritual maturity – that we seek God on our own for a season. Even Jesus went into the wilderness.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.
(Psalm 27:5 NKJV)
The common book of prayer and most modern translations are better here than the King James. Instead of speaking about God’s pavilion or tabernacle, places which have a public connotation, they say, “He shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling...” How important are secret places of worship and the secrets of God to us? It is easy to get the wrong idea about our reason for practicing religion. It’s not like we go to church to buy an insurance policy. Instead, we go to church to learn skills for navigating the wilderness. Counter to our intuition, we go to the God-forsaken places to discover the reality of God.
We go alone into the wilderness. The God that we seek, is hard to find amidst the noise of public worship. The almighty doesn’t suddenly appear when we get alone, either. Spiritual seeking takes time. We must first accept the silence. Face our own insecurities. Remember the lonely man, Job? At the end of his trials. When God finally appeared to him, Job said:
“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
These are the words of someone who has found both solitude and God.