Have you ever felt alone?
Like at the end of the day when your phone stops buzzing and the notifications stop coming. When everything finally quiets down and you’re left alone with nothing but your thoughts. How do you feel? Maybe a little uneasy? Maybe a little uncomfortable?
When was the last time you were able to sit alone with yourself and enjoy it?
In my opinion, aloneness is not to be feared. It’s not to be avoided or rushed through or looked down upon. We all eventually find ourselves in seasons of aloneness. Whether this is by choice or due to factors outside of our control, these moments seem unavoidable. The key here is how we handle them. While the world can view aloneness as rejection, Jesus viewed aloneness as opportunity. An opportunity to lean in, to embrace the discomfort, and to find out more about your identity in the Father.
This is a lesson I learned the hard way.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I had a really difficult time being alone. I was filling my schedule with ways to please people so that I could feel like I was needed. I was desperately trying to build a platform on social media, constantly posting, scrolling and counting likes, looking for affirmation that I was a “somebody.” And at times I was even going to places I shouldn’t have been going to, drinking drinks I didn’t need to be drinking to help distract me from feeling alone.
To make matters worse, I ended up going through a rough breakup, quitting my job without having another one lined up, and losing some of my friends that weren’t good influences in the first place. After all of this I found myself in a heavy season of isolation, in need of the Father and of the peace of mind and calm heart that only He can bring. I finally found myself truly alone, with nothing left but a spirit that was finally willing to completely surrender itself to the Lord.
During this season for me, it just so happened that my pastor preached a pretty powerful sermon specifically on the topic of solitude. In his sermon, he shared a quote that I found so challenging and convicting that it completely reshaped my approach to the idea of aloneness:
“It is this nothingness (in solitude) that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something. The task is to persevere in my solitude, to stay in my cell until all my seductive visitors get tired of pounding on my door and leave me alone. The wisdom of the desert is that the confrontation with our own frightening nothingness forces us to surrender ourselves totally and unconditionally to the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Henri Nouwen
So my question to you is: in your moments of aloneness, are you leaning more towards distractions, or more towards surrender?
I had clearly been leaning towards distractions, so it was a big shift when I started to intentionally lean more towards surrender.
I started with quiet time. And you know what? So did Jesus.
If we look at the life of Jesus we see a life in pursuit of solitude. Countless times Jesus withdraws or escapes from crowds into places where he can be alone and have quiet time.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) NIV
Do you take time to get up and pray, alone?
“After [Jesus] had dismissed [the crowds], he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was [still] there alone.” (Matthew 14:23) NIV
Do you leave the crowds or parties to just be alone sometimes?
“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) NIV
Jesus demonstrates to us that prayer in solitude is the first place we should turn when the distractions of the world start asking for our attention. When we seek the Father in quiet time through reading the Word or by posturing our hearts for prayer, we are essentially tuning our hearts to His. And what better way to equip ourselves for how to face the challenges of every day life than with a heart and mind that is tuned to God’s?
I learned to want that for myself above any other distraction. And my hope is that you desire that too.
Here are some ways I overcame distractions when I started my season of consistent quiet time:
Delete your social media apps: I found that deleting social media apps off my phone was helpful. I didn’t need to delete my account, just the app itself to remove the temptation. Then I’d download the app again later when I was in a good mental place to check in on everything.
Set boundaries or times to check your phone: I also started making rules for myself on when I could check my phone’s email or respond to text messages. I placed boundaries on these distractions and this allowed me to more fully dive into my quiet time.
There are things to be learned in seasons of aloneness, and God puts us there when He wants us to listen. If we rush through it or distract ourselves, we just might miss something important. We have to learn to sit alone with ourselves and with our thoughts. Learn to lean into God and rely on Him fully as He removes our distractions one by one. Confront our nothingness so that God can fill us with His Holiness. In the isolation we have to surrender everything so that we can truly find our identity fully in God. And this, this place of complete surrender to Him, this is the place where we want to build from. We grow from there. And it permeates every other area of our lives – eventually, the area of relationships.
When we are fully in God we are fully ourselves, and when we are fully ourselves we can be who we were meant to be for our relationships. We breathe life into our families, friends and significant others, and this cultivates relationships of the highest caliber.
When I finally came out of my season of solitude, I was beaming. I knew my identity and who I was in Christ. I was confident and mentally strong. And this allowed me to play the role for my family and friends that I was designed to play. It also helped to prepare me for who I was meant to be for my fiancé. If Courtney and I had met prior to that season, I’m not sure she would have even recognized me as someone she could see a future with. I had to go through the desert of isolation and lean into my season of solitude with the Lord, so that I could learn my true identity in Him and become the person He made me to be.
Taylor Leatherwood lives in Nashville, TN. He was raised in a Christian home in Tampa, FL, and 7 years ago, after graduating from Florida State University, moved to Nashville, TN to work in the music industry. He loves to spend his free time going for drives or taking his dog, Regan, for a run. Two years ago he met Courtney Kruger (part of team Live Original) and fell in love. They got engaged last November and will be married in August.