What is the biblical background of solitude?
In short: Jesus.
Jesus often sought out solitude.
- Mark 1:35 – “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”
- Context: He has been super busy healing. Had a very busy night before. Crowds everywhere.
- Observations: He pursues the solitude of early morning hours. This is early in his ministry.
- Matthew 14:23 – “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone…”
- Context: He just fed the 5000.
- Observations: He now pursues solitude in the afternoon until evening. This is later in his ministry.
- Luke 5:16 – “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”
- Context: Great crowds were gathering around him.
- Observations: Luke clarifies this was a practice, like, a usual thing.
- Luke 6:12 – “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.”
- Context: He appoints the 12 apostles after this time of prayer.
- Observations: He goes to a mountain. This time it is all night.
- Matthew 26:36 – “Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.””
- Context: This is right before the cross.
- Observations: It’s night. He seeks a garden. People are near. He is at the end of his earthly ministry.
As you can tell, Jesus’s ministry is shot through with retreats to solitude. He seeks solitude frequently. He seeks solitude at crucial moments. He seeks solitude despite the craziness, because of the craziness. He seeks solitude for short stents. He seeks solitude sometimes in complete isolation, sometimes with others. He seeks solitude at various hours of the day. He utilizes nature. And he seeks solitude in service of greater things: to pray and meditate and be with his Father.
And the logic is simple: If I want to be like Jesus, I should do what he does. If Jesus needed solitude and practiced it in this way, then so should I.
That’s the biblical background of solitude.
Bonus: Other biblical examples…
- Genesis 24:62–64 – “ And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming.  And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel”
- Psalm 63:6 – “when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;”
- Psalm 119:147–148 – “ I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.  My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.”
- Bonus: Psalm 19:1–2 – “ The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.  Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.”
Can you think of over biblical examples where solitude and spirituality go together?
Moses on the mountain top, John the Baptist in the wilderness, Elijah, Martha versus Mary?