Experiencing the joy and fellowship of community has never been more complicated. Social distancing, fourteen-day quarantines, and contactless transactions were not part of our common vernacular more than a few months ago. We ache to be together with friends and family, and the fatigue of isolationism wears down our personal practices of vigilance. Many feel isolated despite having more tools to connect with others than at any other time in the history of the world.
Christians point to the inherent community of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—when describing our innate need for connection with others. God himself declared, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). Solomon, the famously wise king, wrote that “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement” (Proverbs 18:1). The presence of God and others is vital for our spiritual health.
We need each other, but we also need alone time.
In fact, Jesus was known to retreat from the crowds (Matthew 14:1, Luke 4:42), and he ordered his disciples to rest (Mark 6:31). However, a closer look at Jesus’ retreats shows a powerful pattern: Jesus left the crowds to be alone with God. He withdrew to mountains and desolate places to pray (Matthew 14:23; Luke 5:16, 6:12). When it was still dark, and during the night of his arrest, Jesus departed from his friends to pray (Mark 1:35, Luke 22:41). Not only did Jesus model “alone time with God” for his followers, he also taught them explicitly: “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Matthew 6:6). The Psalms also encourage time away from activity and with God—time to meditate, reflect, and refocus.
Be still and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10
God’s abiding presence with us is a source of comfort and strength. He promises to never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5) and that nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8:38-39). Therefore, trying to escape for some “alone time” apart from God is futile.
David Mathis, pastor of Cities Church in Minneapolis, says, “Unless you have his word before you to read, or memorized and hidden in your heart, you are not alone with God. You are just alone with yourself. Christ communicates himself to us through his word made alive and real to our souls by his Spirit.”
Covid-19 may be an opportunity to be away from others, or it may force you to interact more often with a smaller group of people. Time spent away from work, friends, and even family can be beneficial. It gives us a chance to recharge and refocus. More importantly, time away from others can help us realize that God is near. Remembering the priority of prayer and God’s word when we withdraw from others can turn times that feel alone or isolated into times of renewal and intimacy. The next time you choose some “me time,” try to remember that it is best spent as “we” time with God.
Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! – I Chronicles 16:11