Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Mt 4:1-3)
Dallas Willard reminds us that “solitude is the most radical of the disciplines for life in the spirit.” Until we have developed the discipline of seeking out solitude we cannot know the full presence of God unfettered by the myriad distractions of life. We pray and our thoughts wander to the other things on our desk or the sound of the neighbor’s dog barking. We worship but break the communion with the spirit by focusing instead on the bright shirt worn by the man three rows ahead. Submission is weakened by ego and meditation interrupted by scattered thought. The Christian who separates herself into the desert finds herself distanced from these enemies of discipline and completely open to the descending presence of the Lord.
The benefits of solitude extend to our other spiritual disciplines. The account of Christ entering the desert to be tempted is often read quickly to get to the temptations but this does a disservice to the text. We take note of the fact that Jesus seeks out the solitude for forty days before being tempted. He immerses Himself in the full presence of his Father and the Spirit to build the strength necessary to face the tempter. He fasts, removing all external influence so that he is single-mindedly prepared to face whatever will come. We can learn from this to build our own spiritual muscle. In solitude we know nothing and no one other than God. He becomes our sole center without any opportunity for distraction.
Our desire for solitude will be misinterpreted by others. Our friends and loved ones will want to know why we seek to be apart from them but we must be diligent in pursuing our life of discipline. Ultimately, the Father deals with each of us individually and corporately but we are not free to substitute one for the other. We must be willing to walk away into the desert leaving companionship and distraction engendered by those who surround us even though they have our best interests at heart.
Grace and peace to you..