Destination: Inner Sanctum

Though we can't all take extended vacations, restorative breaks for quiet and solitude are essential for our well-being.

In the U.K., a Hilton ad campaign promises potential guests a cure for Vacationitis. The hotel chain offers relief from symptoms of Acute Retinal Monitoritis (the ills of staring at a computer screen), Commuteritis (rush hour woes), Acute Cancelitis (lack of quality time to spend with loved ones), and Cordless Infatuitis (a strong desire to unplug from the world).

The marketing brains behind these clever ads recognize our culture’s widespread, deep-seated longing for a break. It’s not just work-related pressure but also parental responsibilities, financial challenges, marriage issues, and health concerns that weigh us down (not to mention the relentless sense that we must live up to the trendy, fit, creative, delicious, immaculate, organized, photogenic wonderfulness constantly barraging us on TV, Facebook, Pinterest and the countless blogs we follow).

Whew!

Some personalities thrive under such stress; others begin to crack. Unless we safeguard our well-being, we run the risk of self-destruction. Quasi solutions to stress—such as substance abuse, pornography, and promiscuity—offer pleasure but deliver pain.

It’s futile to hope that the frenetic busyness of life will miraculously go away. No amount of wishing will transport us back to the quieter, simpler lifestyle we like to imagine people enjoyed in earlier centuries. But that doesn’t mean we can’t find moments of restorative quiet and solitude. We may not be able to take time off from work and fly to a tropical island, but it’s vital that we pull away from the world now and then.

READ Mark 1:9-39

The New Testament contains many examples of Jesus withdrawing into periods of solitude and silence—times when He met in private with the Father and prayed. We don’t know the specifics of the conversations during those brief retreats, but we know He made it a priority and never apologized for spending time alone.

In this passage, we see Jesus by Himself more than once. He began His ministry with fasting and solitude (note the absence of board meetings, business plans, and social media strategies). When He was ready, He selected His disciples and then began teaching and healing. He started early the next morning with private prayer, far from distractions (v. 35).

Martin Luther learned to apply this discipline in his own life. He once said, “I have so much business, I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.” It’s easy to say we can’t spare the time to go on a spiritual retreat or to be alone more with God. The truth is, we can’t afford not to.

READ Matthew 14:23 and Luke 5:15-16

We may be tempted to think, Well, Jesus didn’t have a wife and children to take care of. He didn’t have car payments to make or a boss breathing down His neck. He had more time than I do!

That’s just an excuse, isn’t it? No one in history has ever had more important work to do, more people to reach out to, more responsibilities to shoulder, or more problems to deal with than Jesus did. On any given day, there were probably a greater number of people clamoring for His attention and time than most of us will experience in our entire life. And yet, even though He was God, Jesus knew the limitations of His human body and proactively took care of it. He didn’t wait until He burned out to take a vacation. Instead, He was intentional about pulling away and preparing Himself for each day’s work.

Jesus’ lifestyle demonstrates that a full and effective ministry not only can accommodate quiet and solitude but, in fact, depends on it.

REFLECT + EXPLORE

Before committing to a drastic change in your schedule or planning overnight retreats, be sure that any pursuit of solitude and quiet is prompted by the Holy Spirit. Don’t do it because people expect you to, because it sounds appealing, or because you read this Bible study. Do it because . . .

You hunger and thirst for God. Read Psalm 42:1 and Psalm 63:1-8. What drove the psalmist to God?
You long to hear His voice. Read Proverbs 2:1-5 and John 10:27-28. Why is it important to sometimes turn off the sounds and voices around us?
You recognize a need to occasionally push the pause button on life and retreat into your inner sanctum—that private place in your soul where it’s only you and God. Read and memorize James 4:8. 

If you can do all this on a beach in Maui, great! If you can take a day off to relax in your hammock, good for you! But if all you can do is lock yourself in the bathroom for 10 minutes or drag yourself out of bed half an hour early, that’ll work, too.

RESPOND

Answer the following questions, journaling your thoughts if possible.

At times when you feel frazzled and find yourself muttering, “I need a vacation!” how do you pray about it? In what ways have you sought God’s direction in this area of your life?

When you can’t get a break, how do you react? What effect does this have on the people close to you? on your relationship with God?

Think of changes you can make in your routine to free up time for a retreat to your inner sanctum. What will you say “no” to so that you can say “yes” to God?


Related Topics:  Intimacy with God

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What happens to my notes

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

10 Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him;

11 and a voice came out of the heavens: You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased."

12 Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness.

13 And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.

14 Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God,

15 and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

16 As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen.

17 And Jesus said to them, Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men."

18 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

19 Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets.

20 Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.

21 They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach.

22 They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

23 Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,

24 saying, What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are--the Holy One of God!"

25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Be quiet, and come out of him!"

26 Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him.

27 They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him."

28 Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee.

29 And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.

30 Now Simon's mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her.

31 And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.

32 When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed.

33 And the whole city had gathered at the door.

34 And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.

35 In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.

36 Simon and his companions searched for Him;

37 they found Him, and said to Him, Everyone is looking for You."

38 He said to them, Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for."

39 And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons.

23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.

15 But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses.

16 But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.

1 O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.

2 Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory.

3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You.

4 So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.

5 My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.

6 When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches,

7 For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.

8 My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.

1 My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you,

2 Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding;

3 For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding;

4 If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures;

5 Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God.

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;

28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

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