I leave little time for solitude. If I’m honest, when I’m left alone with my thoughts, I’m confronted with my lack of faith in God. I’m tired and really don’t believe that God will give me rest, so I look at Instagram.
The closet needs cleaning and sorting? I’d rather catch up on Twitter.
Waiting on the train, the bus, the plane? Pull out Instagram and scroll, scroll, scroll.
Trouble sleeping? Check email, read blogs.
I choose easy, quick gratification because I don’t actually believe that at God’s right hand there are pleasures forevermore (Ps 16:11). When I spend time alone, I’m confronted with my fears. When I don’t want to feel afraid, I run to distractions.
I say that Jesus is enough for me even when life gets hard—especially when life gets hard—but the moment life becomes uncomfortable I want relief. I look for it in lesser things.
The lesser things never bring the help or rest I crave.
A Better Way
My pastor has been preaching a series on good spiritual habits: prayer, meditation, solitude, fasting, feasting and rest. Teaching on solitude, he noted that when we numb our heart’s longings, fears and anxieties with social media, work, relationships, etc. we don’t grow.
I leave little time for solitude, for pouring out the depths of my heart to the Lord in order to experience his healing and comfort. I want distraction from pain, heartache and fear; from life not going my way. But if we never leverage solitude to prayerfully take what’s in our hearts to God, we don’t experience his help in those areas. This becomes blindingly apparent when trials or suffering come. If I haven’t been in regular practice of taking the depths of my heart to God and experiencing his power at work in trials, then I will surely feel as if I am drowning when the next storm comes.
Run to Jesus, not distraction.
Instead of running from what’s in our hearts, we should run with our whole hearts to the only one who promises rest (Matt 11:28-29). I often fill opportunities for solitude with my heavenly Father with other things. I clean the house, but with music blaring. I run errands, but I’m on my phone as I walk—headphones on, feelings stuffed down. I work and serve at church and go to Zumba. I spend time with my husband. My weekly schedule is productive, but is my heart ever really at rest?
If you see yourself in a pattern of choosing easy distractions throughout your day instead of choosing to spend time with Jesus, think about what is going on in your heart. Are you disbelieving who God says he is and how he will help you? Perhaps you need to repent of laziness in your relationship with God. Maybe you need to rethink your use of social media, or whatever it is that most distracts you. I know I often do.
Rest for weary souls can only come from Jesus. The first step to pursuing the kind of love and faith that drives out fear is to realize that the rest we seek comes from none other (Ps 62:5). Once we realize it’s Jesus we really need, we can start to confess our need of him through prayer.
Pray with a quiet heart.
When we don’t allow for stillness and solitude with the Lord, we’re not allowing our broken, corrupted hearts an audience with the physician who came to heal them (Ps 147:3, Mark 2:7). It’s like having access to an ER doctor when you have a gaping wound but not sticking around for stitches. We slap bandaids on our wounds without receiving healing care.
Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30).
We have a God with whom we get to talk vulnerably about the cares of our hearts. Lingering in his word we will find that he is our Comforter (2 Cor 1:3-5), Healer (Ps 103:2-5) and full of unfailing love towards us (Ps 33:2).
Most of us are not very good at sitting still with our thoughts. I’m not. Like most everything, spending time in prayer takes practice. An hour of peace and quiet does not magically appear on anyone’s agenda. We have to practice regular rhythms of prayer because it doesn’t come naturally to us. So how do we practice prayer?
+ Pray for a heart that trusts God (John 15:5, Prov 3:5-6).
+ Pray for help to believe God (Mark 9:24).
+ Pray for forgiveness (1 John 1:9, Ps 32:1, Matt, 6:12).
+ Pray against temptation (Matt 26:41).
+ Pray for joy in trials (James 1:2-4).
+ Pray for one another (John 13:34-45, 1 Thes 5:11).
+ Pray for wisdom (James 1:5).
+ Pray for confidence in Christ’s love (Zeph 3:17, Eph 3:14, 18-19).
Ask the Lord to strengthen you as you build a habit of prayer. We need his help to turn to him in the midst of pain and discomfort, and in the midst of joy and gladness. We need him to help us lift our gaze upward to him and outward to others. And by his all sufficient grace and steadfast love, he will hear us and help us!
Molly Rigoloso lives in Manhattan with her husband, Justin. Together they serve the people of Apostles Church on the Upper East Side.