KEY PASSAGE: Matthew 14:22-23
SUPPORTING SCRIPTURE: Genesis 1:26 | Mark 1:35 | Romans 5:7-8
Stress is a killer we feel we can’t escape. Our days include distressing situations of all kinds.
The question is, How do we handle it?
Many people try to escape their anxious feelings with medications, drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, or anything that brings relief. But none are truly effective. The ultimate solution comes only from God. Thankfully, He has freely provided it to every one of His children.
I know this solution works because I have experienced it. At one point in my ministry, I was hospitalized three times in one year because of the stress I placed on myself. Thinking that I ought to take advantage of every opportunity that came my way, I was trying to do more than God intended. As a result, I became tired and run down. I had to take three months off. It was during this time that God taught me how to handle stress. The answer is not found in a bottle of pills, but in times of solitude with the Lord.
Jesus also experienced stress, but He knew exactly how to handle it.
On one occasion, after feeding a multitude of five thousand, Jesus sent His disciples away in a boat and went up on the mountain by Himself to pray (Matt. 14:22-23). In fact, seeking solitude with His Father was Jesus’ customary practice, especially after dramatic situations. We also see this example in the apostle Paul’s life. After he was dramatically saved, he headed for Arabia to seek solitude with God (Gal. 1:17). Time spent alone in prayer with God is vital.
The practice of solitude
Spending time alone with the Lord sets us free from stress. This kind of isolation is different from loneliness. Solitude is a choice to be alone—to voluntarily separate ourselves from others. Loneliness is a painful inner emptiness that results from feeling disconnected from others. Loneliness involves a sense of not belonging.
The purpose of solitude is to privately commune with God. The goal is not to study the Bible or to bring our petitions and concerns to Him, but to simply be with the Lord. The chokehold of stress will be broken, and our tensions will subside. This doesn’t mean we’ll never experience stress again, but solitude teaches us how to deal with it in God’s way.
Reasons for solitude
The Lord wants us to be alone with Him for two primary reasons:
- For a relationship. God created us in His image because He wanted to have a relationship with us for all eternity (Gen. 1:26). In fact, God loved us so much that He was willing to send His Son to die for us in order to break down the barrier which sin created (Rom. 5:7-8). Yet despite all this, many Christians don’t have time for Him. But we won’t be able to relate to the Lord if our minds are preoccupied, and our schedules are full. Solitude is the only way this intimate relationship with our Creator becomes a reality.
- For preparation. Solitude is also God’s way of preparing us for the day ahead. That’s why we should begin every morning with time alone with Him. Although reading the Word and spending time in prayer are very important, the primary purpose of solitude is to experience God’s presence. He wants to be alone with us because that’s when He’s able to reveal Himself so we can know Him intimately and feel a sense of belonging.
How do we experience solitude?
- By opening God’s Word to focus on Him. We need to spend a short period of time reading the Word so our thinking will be God-oriented. This is not the time to focus on our needs and prayer requests. The point is to become more sensitive to the Lord’s presence.
- By eliminating distractions. To prevent our minds from drifting, we should find a dark and quiet place that is free from distractions. The goal is to be still and quiet so we can give the Lord our undivided attention. Then, as we enjoy sweet fellowship with Him, all our worries, fears, and stress will drain away. And we’ll be left strengthened to handle whatever comes.
Benefits of solitude
If we practice solitude with Him, our lives will be changed in the following ways:
- Makes our days are more fruitful. If we begin each day setting our minds and hearts on Him and listening for His voice, He will guide us and whatever we do will be more productive for Him.
- Repairs damage. After a hard day, time of solitude with the Lord refuels us emotionally. All our troubles and anxieties are released, and we come away liberated and refreshed.
- Equips us to face the tough days. Time alone with God enables us to face the trials, heartaches, and burdens with calm confidence and assurance of His presence with us.
- Creates surprising moments. When we meet quietly with the Lord, He may unexpectedly answer our prayers in surprising ways and reveal even more than we ask.
- Strips us of pride. In God’s presence we begin to recognize His holiness, perfection, and power. As a result, we understand how lowly we are in comparison.
- Protects health. Stress affects our bodies and damages our health, but solitude with the Lord releases our anxiety, so we don’t have to suffer its harmful effects.
- Makes a difference in relationships. When we’ve released our stress to the Lord, our relationships with others improve.
- Gives peace and joy. Times of solitude with God can calm our hearts, quiet our spirits, and enable us to overcome anything we’re facing in life.
- Gives greater strength from the Lord. He enables us to handle each day’s challenges.
- Produces greater trust in God. We rest in the knowledge that our heavenly Father will take care of us.
- Develops a deeper relationship with the Lord. In those quiet times, we learn to know Him more intimately.
- How do you normally handle stress in your life?
- In what way is solitude different from other stress relief you’ve experienced?
- Have you practiced solitude with God as a solution to stress?
- What benefits are evident from your practice of solitude? Would you recommend it to others who are dealing with stress?