Solitude. What do you think when you hear the word solitude? Technically the word solitude means being alone. What we may not realize is that there is more than one way to be alone. In the story of Jonah we see a man trying to be alone. We see him running from the presence of God. The author of the story poetically describes Jonah’s escape from God as a descent into darkness. Each stage of his journey is described as going down. Down to Japa, down into a boat, down in the the base of a boat, and ultimately down into the sea and the fish. Would you say he is seeking solitude?
Spiritually healthy solitude is meant to be alone with God but Jonah was attempting to be alone away from God. The human soul is designed to thrive in the presence of God, which shouldn’t be difficult in light of the fact that God is everywhere (see Psalm 139). The story of Jonah shows us the soul turmoil that results from a soul attempting to hide from God’s everywhere-presence.
Today, if you are comfortable, try this exercise and contemplate learn what it feels like to hide from the presence of God. Find a small dark place to sit in the dark. You may be able to mimic Jonah’s decent by going into a basement and into a closet. Sit there for a few minutes and ask yourself, how does this feel? Now remind yourself that the dark, cramped, cold place is what it is like for your soul to hide from God. If this physical practice is too much for you, you may go through the exercise in your mind. Remind yourself that God’s presence is the bright, open, safe space where your soul was designed to be.
You can close with a prayer like this: Father, I know you are everywhere. Help me to acknowledge your presence and enjoy the safety of it. Help me to step out of isolating solitude and into a solitude full of your presence. Amen.
By Aaron Bjorklund