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).
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.
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?