The cell was stark, nothing but a narrow bunk. It was called “Solitary.” It was the place where inmates were placed for disciplinary reasons, or occasionally, for their own protection. I toured a prison museum while vacationing last week. (Don’t laugh, it was interesting.)
When gets busy and responsibilities multiply, we may sometimes wish for a little time alone, but taking a break from our day to day responsibilities, which is what I did last week with a vacation, is entirely different from being cut off from all human interaction, locked into a cell without windows or glimpse of the world. It is an awful kind of punishment.
Circumstances may leave you feeling like you’ve been put into solitary confinement, abandoned even, but let me remind you, Christian, that you are never truly alone! Moses spoke to God’s people and to Joshua when he was about to take on the leadership of the nation – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. … The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:6,8, NIV) The repetition is a way of driving home the point to us!
We are never ‘in solitary’ even when we are alone. The Presence of God knows no barriers. The Spirit is with us, living in us. We can commune with Him, know His peace; anytime, anywhere. David speaks of times in his life when he felt abandoned, overwhelmed, alone. When he reflects on his heritage, belonging to God, he sings- “Many people say, “Who will show us better times?” Let the smile of your face shine on us, Lord. You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and wine. I will lie down in peace and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.” (Psalm 4:6-8, NLT)
There is a key to experiencing God’s presence, stillness. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10, NIV) The power of the text is sometimes lost to us. Where the Word tells us to ‘be still’ the Hebrew text is about more than just turning down the noise of life. It is an active word that implies weakness, falling down in exhaustion. We might translate that line, “let it go!” Yes, to experience God’s Presence in His fullness, we must be willing to release our grasp on things, on expectations, on our own dreams and hopes. Is that difficult? Yes, because God’s Presence involves ‘things unseen.’
If you are feeling alone, wondering if the Lord has placed you in solitary confinement- ‘be still.’ Hit the pause button, step away, sink down, let go. … of what you think you need so that you are able to take hold of Who He offers to be in your life. We can become so convinced that we know how life should be, what others must do, the things we absolutely need to find contentment and peace, that we cut ourselves off from the best gifts that are found in Him. That’s not theory for me, I know it first-hand. In great loss I have found Him nearer, even when my heart aches. But, the price of knowing His peace is surrender of my demanding, becoming still before as I honestly confess that He is Lord. In surrender, He finds us and lets us know His joy.
Feeling abandoned today? Meditate on the eternal truth of the Word, from Paul who was inspired by the Spirit. Speaking of his own accomplishments and religious achievements, he says – “I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him.” (Philippians 3:7-9, NLT)
One by one He took them from me,
All the things I valued most.
‘Til I was empty-handed,
Every glittering toy was lost.
And I walked earth’s highways, grieving,
In my rags and poverty.
Until I heard His voice inviting,
“Lift those empty hands to Me!”
Then I turned my hands toward heaven,
And He filled them with a store
Of His own transcendent riches,
‘Til they could contain no more.
And at last I comprehended,
With my stupid mind, and dull,
That God cannot pour His riches
Into hands already full.
-Martha Snell Nicholson