Press of Solitude

Tuesday: Flight from God

Genesis 42:17-23 In this week’s studies, we learn the importance of solitude for our relationship with the Lord.
Flight from God

What did God use to bring about this quickening of conscience and confession? He had used the pain of material want to bring the ten brothers (Benjamin had remained home with his father) to Egypt, where they were particularly vulnerable to God’s prodding. He had used Joseph’s harsh words to prick their carefully constructed defenses; the words had begun to get through. Now God uses solitude or physical imprisonment to set them apart from life’s incessant trivial demands and give them time to awake to His displeasure. The section begins: “He [that is, Joseph] put them all in custody for three days” (v. 17). 

Solitude! It is a valuable gift of God even when there is no particularly great sin to be exposed! In solitude people meet God. One of the reasons for the shallowness of much of our modern church life is that we have so little of it. 

One person who protested against this just a generation or so ago was A. W. Tozer, a great pastor in the city of Chicago. He expressed his concerns in a book called The Pursuit of God. Possessions are one thing that keep us from God, wrote Tozer. “There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in life. Because it is so natural it is rarely recognized for the evil that it is; but its outworkings are tragic.”1 

Nor is it only things that keep us from God. The frantic pace or busyness of our lives keeps us from God too, said Tozer. God must be cultivated. And that takes time. He wrote, 

The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast-flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine age methods to our relations with God. 

We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar. 

The tragic results of this spirit are all about us. Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit: these and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul.2

Solitude is necessary for Christian life and growth under any circumstances. To grow we must spend time with God. We must escape from our slavery to things. We must step aside from the busyness of everyday life. But if this is true for everyone in every spiritual state, it is certainly true of one who is cherishing some distant, unconfessed sin and who is hoping that God has forgotten about it. With such a soul God will at first deal gently. He will bring want or harsh treatment. But then, if these alone do not unearth the fault and lead to confession, God will frequently shut the person up from normal activities—perhaps through sickness or the loss of a job—and reach him or her there. We have a hymn which goes: 

Speak, Lord, in the stillness 

While I wait on thee, 

Hushed my heart to listen 

In expectancy. 

It is frequently in the stillness of solitude that we are brought to listen to that still but persistent small voice of God’s Spirit. 

1A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1948), 28.

2Ibid., 69-70.

Study Questions
  1. Besides the need to go to Egypt for food and their harsh experience with the prime minister, what is the next thing God used to afflict the brothers’ consciences? What caused the brothers to exercise this?
  2. How can solitude deepen our church life?

Application: Do you find it difficult to find time for quiet spiritual reflection? What changes can you make to your daily routine to allow for more solitude?

Key Point: Solitude is necessary for Christian life and growth under any circumstances. To grow we must spend time with God. We must escape from our slavery to things. We must step aside from the busyness of everyday life.

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “Alone but for the Lord.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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