I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of the bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
– William Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud”
Here is a peek into the mind of one who has just learned the significance of solitude. When we first find the poet taking a solitary stroll, we find him lonely. He wanders, a bit dazed and confused, without a friend to accompany him. However, in his lonely state, he notices something that he would not have otherwise noticed (had he been occupied in conversation): a beautiful field of flowers. Something in his solitude that day struck a chord in him and inspired him for ages to come. He realized that there is treasure to be found in solitude as well as camaraderie, and that his loneliness turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Solitude sharpens awareness of small pleasures otherwise lost. – Kevin Patterson
Do you and I know the significance of solitude? In today’s modern world, it would appear that solitude is a fast-fading memory of times past. Today, we are constantly surrounded by entertainment, interaction, and activity…constantly plugged in to the hustle and bustle of our easily bored society. If we aren’t checking Facebook, we’re staring at a television set. If we aren’t staring at a television set, we’re planning our next outing. If we’re not planning our next outing, we’re calling up a long-distance friend to catch up on the latest news. The list goes on. These are just a few of the myriad of ways that we distract ourselves from…ourselves. We, as a society, have forgotten how to be alone. How to be still. How to ponder. How to reach for God in the silence. We are running from solitude…
I believe Satan has a hand in our drifting away from solitude. In fact, I believe Satan has had a hand in our drifting away from solitude since The Garden of Eden. He is a devil of distraction. If he can distract us from the truth and fill our head with his own nonsense like he did with Eve, then the battle for our spirits is all but won. In the garden, he used flowery words and big promises to distract Eve…he may be using social media, recreation, and idle chit chat to distract us, but the intent of his scheme is much the same as it always has been: to move us further away from God.
So where am I going with all this? Am I saying that
all social media is the devil’s playground? Am I trying to prove that all friendship is a waste of time? Am I suggesting everybody move to their own private island and live like hermits? Of course not. However, I am strongly advising that we seek a healthy balance…somewhere in the middle of being a recluse and beaming entertainment in front of our noggin all day and night. Camaraderie is important, but so is solitude. Both should be sought after for a moderate Christian lifestyle…but one is neglected more often than the other. Let us not forget the value of time spent “wandering lonely as a cloud”, where our heart “dances with the daffodils”.
Today I would like to share three reasons why I believe in the significance of solitude…
#1: Because of the Silence
Solitude is significant to the life of a Christian because silence is significant to the life of a Christian. When we neglect solitude, we neglect silence.
Many people, especially us females, tend to spend much more time speaking than we do in silence. When we are speaking with others, it fills a void in us that longs for communication, connection, and camaraderie. Our speech is not a negative thing in and of itself. In fact, speech is a gift of the Lord! However, like all gifts, it can be abused if not used in moderation.
In the famous chapter of Ecclesiastes 3, we learn that there is an appropriate and inappropriate season for all things in life. Let us not forget that while there are times in our life for speaking, there should also be times in our life for silence…
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak. – Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3:7b
When our mouth is in a perpetual state of movement, it hinders our growth both mentally and spiritually. We can only speak about what we already know. Therefore when we are speaking, no new information is coming into the mind – only old information is coming out! If we take time for silence, it encourages our mind to process new ideas and new thought processes. It encourages our mind to expand beyond its present limitations! The silence of solitude brings growth. Consider these words of the Psalmist:
I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue, Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is, that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. – Psalm 39:2-5
There are times to “hold our peace, even from good” – to just shut the old talk box completely down. At times, we need to give our tongue a rest so that we can give ourselves over to thoughtful, meditative communion with God alone. When we are musing in such a way, “the fire burns”…this silence can excite us and ignite us! When the Psalmist gave himself over to silence, it provoked him to consider the truly important things in life. Would we not be wise to do the same? We all know the popular phrase, “be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10a)…but do we ever stop talking long enough to pursue this kind of solitude?
Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius. – Edward Gibbon
It is often in times of silence that we find our sense of awe in the Lord. It’s easy to get so caught up in the daily grind of this life, that we find ourselves losing the ability to wonder. When was the last time you looked around and considered your miniature size in this great big world? Has it been a while since you had a heart-to-heart with God (outside of the old standby rote prayer routine you so often find yourself in)? Do you ever take time anymore to get out into nature (and leave the cell phone behind)? Such simple moments can be liberating…just what is needed to rewire the mind toward a more worshipful existence.
When from our better selves we have too long been parted by the hurrying world, and droop. Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired, how gracious, how benign is solitude. – William Wordsworth
Solitude is significant because silence is significant. The second reason I believe solitude is significant is…
#2: Because of the Study
Solitude is significant to the life of a Christian because study is significant to the life of a Christian. When we neglect solitude, we neglect study.
Before I begin, I want to make one thing abundantly clear about this point: group study with the collective body of Christ is a must. To seek after only solitary study would be to disregard God’s command not to forsake the assembly. That, however, is a topic for a different time. Understand that the solitary study I am encouraging is to be in harmony with (and not to the neglect of) your studies with your congregation. Both are essential, but today we will only be focusing on solitary study…
With that being said, this solitary study of which we speak is absolutely vital not only to the Christian lifestyle of an individual, but even to the very salvation of said individual! It is a sad but common occurrence that many people will base their faith solely upon the teachings of man, while never checking their bibles to see if what they are hearing is the truth. This blind trust, this act of placing one’s salvation into the hands of another, is so very dangerous! While assembling with other Christians is a blatant command, so too is the command to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12b). Salvation is something we can not afford to be flippant about, and so we must make time in our busy lives for personal study. We must be like the “more noble” Berean brethren, who “searched the scriptures daily” to find out whether or not the things they were being taught were the whole truth, the twisted truth, or a total sham. (see Acts 17:10-11) They were praised because of their wisdom in taking salvation into their own hands, and not allowing themselves to be led astray by false doctrine.
Now aside from studying in solitude to prevent believing heresy, solitary study is important because it is personalized. You could belong to the most sound congregation on earth, with no false doctrine whatsoever, and you could still fail to grow in your faith because the lessons are not suitable to your individual needs. It is almost impossible for one, two, or even three or more teachers/preachers to touch on every single circumstance each individual member might be going through. However, thanks be to God, we all have personal access to the scriptures. This means that we have the privilege to let the “quick and powerful word of God” (Hebrews 4:12a) speak to us in our times of solitude…to fill in the gaps of what we are missing in our group studies.
Just as we recognized in our previous point that there is a time to speak and a time for silence; there is also a time to study in the assembly with other Christians and a time to study alone…
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together… – Ecclesiastes 3:1; 3:5a
Remember that we as Christians are “living stones” (1 Peter 2:4-5). Sometimes we gather together with other stones to study the scriptures, and sometimes we study on our own. Bottom line, we need both for a complete and balanced diet of our spiritual meat.
Have you had your study with the Lord today? Have you met in sweet solitude with your friend that “sticketh closer than a brother”? (Proverbs 18:24b)
There is a fellowship more quiet even than solitude, and which, rightly understood, is solitude made perfect. – Robert Louis Stevenson
Solitude is significant because study is significant. The third reason I believe solitude is significant is…
#3: Because of the Self-Reflection
Solitude is significant to the life of a Christian because self-reflection is significant to the life of a Christian. When we neglect solitude, we neglect self-reflection.
Who am I? Am I living for God, or am I living for myself? Am I progressing, or regressing? Is my faith growing, or shrinking?
These are the types of questions each of us should be asking ourselves on a regular basis. Are we? Or have we filled our lives with so much interaction that we no longer check our spiritual mirrors? True self-reflection can only be found in the midst of solitude. Among friends, family, and social media, we only see ourselves through the eyes of others. This sort of external view is a little foggy at best and a total facade at worst! Others can be quick to tell us what we want to hear rather than the truth. Want a confidence boost? Just post about something you are proud of on social media, and watch the comments pour in, telling you how fabulous you are! The public sees us at our best, but Christ sees us at our worst. Who do we think we’re fooling? We may confuse the crowd, but we can’t kid the King!
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. – 2 Corinthians 13:5a
Aside from the Lord, only we know the true and complete state of our individual hearts. It is our responsibility to frequently (and honestly) evaluate our spiritual condition. Solitude allows us to see ourselves as we truly are, aside from pretense and pride.
We are rarely proud when we are alone. – Voltaire, “Laughter,” Philosophical Dictionary (1764)
I think that many people, especially those who struggle with depression, wish to avoid self-reflection at all costs. It hurts to reflect on our actions and find ourselves not measuring up. It’s important to remember, though, that self-reflection is not the same as self-deprecation. When we find ourselves being overly hard on ourselves to the point of critical pessimism, it does more harm than good. Self-reflection is meant to grow, not to crush. When you find your spirit being crushed, it is time to move on from what you’ve done and to move on to what you can do to change it! That’s the beauty of self-reflection…it allows God’s grace to grant us a fresh new start. Which brings me to another season, in addition to the seasons of silence and study…
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…a time to break down, and a time to build up. – Ecclesiastes 3:1; 3:3b
There are times in our life to break down our character and dissect it piece by piece. Times to self-reflect, and find out who we truly are. If you find that you are less than stellar? Welcome to the club. We all fall short, but let’s not leave it at that. This is the time to build ourselves up and out of our present state…and that is truly the core of self-reflection. Find where you lack and then work alongside the Lord to bring you to the very best version of you. Use the self-reflection of solitude as a springboard to propel you to greater heights…
He never is alone that is accompanied with noble thoughts. – Fletcher, Love’s Cure (1647)
Solitude is significant because self-reflection is significant.
I would like to encourage each and every one of you to find some time this next week for solitude. A little time away from companionship, from running here and there, and from the cell phone will do you a world of good. Don’t be afraid to give yourself over to silence, study, and self-reflection for a little while. Release yourself from the pressures of business – your life is more than a rat race! Moments spent in solitude are never a waste of time…for time in the presence of our God is time well spent.
Then stirs the feeling infinite, so felt in solitude, where we are least alone. – Lord Byron
For God’s Glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.