By Steve Hearts
As I see it, there are various types of solitude and they are distinguished by the circumstances under which they are encountered. One is the type we momentarily experience upon escaping from the hubbub of life and resorting to a quiet, tranquil place to pray, meditate, or simply revel in the peace of our surroundings before hitting the grind once again. This type of solitude is always enjoyable. Another is the kind brought about through the loss of a physical relationship. It often lasts longer than the former and is obviously the more painful and unpleasant of the two.
When physical companionship is lost, the sensations of emptiness, pain, and loneliness often overwhelm us. These observations are by no means based on secondhand knowledge. I have experienced such loss and its resultant solitude firsthand. Was it painful? Of course! But through the losses my relationship with the one who can help us through our pain like no other has been drastically improved.
As it has been said, “Death is a part of life.” The last time I experienced a relational loss, it initially felt like death. My heart felt like a plot of ground from which a tree had been uprooted—empty and wounded. But with time, the work of the master gardener became obvious as new fruit was brought forth in my life. It became evident that this seemingly tragic and painful event was being used as a tool in the hands of the Creator to bring about His perfect will and plan.
The first step in the healing process was learning to give thanks through the painful occurrence. When the Lord asked this of me, my natural mind deemed it unthinkable. But He encouraged me to see this as therapy for the soul. He explained that although the effort would initially be difficult, in the long run it would bring about the healing I needed. So I started praising up a storm, and the results were surprisingly immediate. My spiritual sensitivity and connection with God grew by leaps and bounds. I found myself rising above my pain. The Lord’s voice in my heart could be heard much clearer.
It didn’t take long to see that in the days prior to the painful occurrence I had grown considerably distant from my first love as I pursued a physical relationship. But the pursuit of a closer and deeper relationship with Jesus, which resulted from the forsaking of the physical relationship, brought about changes that I had long hoped for, yet had been unable to obtain. I began growing and reveling in fellowship with the one who truly understood my pain and cared about what I went through. I relearned the lost art of hearing His voice in my thoughts, and answering Him with my own. The solitude which I feared would devour me was instead washed away in Jesus’ wonderful sweet love.
Conversing with Him provided me with much-needed healing and insight. I came to discover more about spiritual gifts, which opened doors of greater usefulness to the Lord, as I gradually became (and am still learning to be) an instrument of His love, healing, comfort, and salvation to others.
I was also inspired to unearth my buried talent of composing songs. Within my heart were born songs of confession, gratitude, and devotion, which have also served as an encouragement to others.
As a child, I’d often heard the story of the little girl who had a set of fake pearls which she valued greatly. One day, her father asked her to throw them into the fire, without explaining why. Though this was no small trial for the girl, she complied. Her father then presented her with a set of real pearls, and her momentary sorrow was quickly replaced by joy. My experience was similar as I learned to forsake the relationship I’d pursued so ardently in order to instead pursue a more real relationship with the true lover of all our souls.
Although I still cannot see the complete picture God is painting, I can certainly identify with the scenario mentioned in the book The Shack, that although seemingly complex and hard to figure out at times, my life is a “living fractal” designed by a living Creator. When I look at things from a perspective of faith, solitude turns out to be a tremendous blessing despite its pain. Through it, I truly have come to discover that I’m anything but alone.
These words appropriately sum up the experiences shared here.
He’s All I Need
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for—but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.
—By an unknown Confederate soldier during the American Civil War (1861–1865)