Being alone offers life lessons for us. Billy Henderson examines how Jesus spent time alone and how we can grow through being alone.
Loneliness—the state of feeling alone or separated from others—is widespread in the world today. This feeling can come as a result of being physically separated from others or feeling emotionally separated when in a group.
As in all biblical teaching, we must relate this topic of loneliness to the life of Jesus. At the time of his walk in the earth he was the Only Begotten. No one really understood him or his purpose. At the end, he was betrayed by a friend and on the cross he even cried out that God himself had forsaken him.
The way Jesus dealt with the times he was alone can be a great example for us as we face the same circumstances. Jesus not only found himself physically separated from people and alone at times, but he also found that no one understood him even when they were with him.
As we look at his life, we will see that being alone was an ever-growing theme in the life of Jesus. He always capitalized on the opportunity, however, rather than feeling lonely and sad for himself. And ultimately, what brought him the greatest fellowship with all life was his separation from all life.
Rather than dwell on how to overcome loneliness, we will see how Jesus capitalized on times when he was alone and used them to further the kingdom.
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matt. 4:1, KJV). This scene takes place near the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. From this verse we can see an important principle on being alone.
First of all, Jesus was led into the wilderness. The word for “wilderness” here actually means solitary, lonely, desolate, and uninhabited. Also, we can see that he was led by the Spirit of God. In other words, God led Jesus into a solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited place.
Normally, people look at the state of being alone as the result of circumstances. This can be true.
Solitude can also be God’s sovereign leading to bring you apart to do a work in your life.
In the wilderness, Jesus had to face the devil as he was tempted with fleshly desires. First, Jesus was tempted to turn the stone into bread. Second, he was tempted to spectacularly cast himself off the temple. Finally, he was tempted to worship Satan in order to have the whole world given unto him. In these three temptations we can see our own wilderness experience or our own temptations when we find ourselves alone.
First, when we are alone we can be tempted to fill our bellies with the nearest hamburger, pizza, or ice cream. If not that, some other natural desire becomes distorted such as sexual drive.
Next comes the possibility of seeking something that is spectacular to our eyes. We want to go buy something to make us feel better about ourselves and next we wonder why we bought it. Or we want some kind of “action.” Music concerts, more meetings, anything to keep us from being alone.
Finally, we could even bow to Satan in order to get the glory of the world, to become the center of attention. Our bowing to Satan is not in a literal sense. It comes through living life his way to be popular and accepted in the eyes of others.
It is amazing what can come into our mind when we are alone and the feelings of loneliness begin to take over. But when that happens…
We must follow the example of Jesus and stand in faith that God is with us.
Jesus always remembered the words of his Father when Satan tempted him to gratify himself apart from God. In his time alone, Jesus never went against the Father’s desire for him.
A good example of God leading his own into a wilderness for the purpose of drawing them close to him, is seen in Deuteronomy 8:2–3:
And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord led thee these forty years in the wilderness to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart whether thou would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger and fed thee with manna which thou knowest not, neither did thy fathers know, that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doeth man live.
In the same way, we must walk through this beginning principle of loneliness. If we find ourselves in a lonely place, perhaps God has led us there to make us see whether we submit to the temptations of the flesh or press into him and walk in his Word.
Subscribe to HIM Publications to get weekly blogs like this delivered to your inbox.
Seeking to Be Alone
All of the four Gospel writers record different accounts of Jesus departing into either a desert, mountain or solitary place at varying times throughout his ministry. Mark 1:35–37 says, “And in the morning rising up a great while before day, he went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. And when they had found him, they said unto him, all men seek for thee.”
This period was not a time of rejection for Jesus. It was a time when everybody was looking for him. Yet, in the midst of popularity, he chose to be alone in prayer. In the wilderness he had faced Satan and the temptations of his own flesh. The solitary place, however, was also where he met with God.
Since Jesus had faced the lusts of his own flesh and had overcome them through the Word of God, he was now free to enjoy God in the place where no one else would bother him. It is the same way with us.
Until we choose God over our own lusts, we will never be able to be alone with him.
As a result of fearing our own lusts and loneliness when we are alone, we can be driven to be around people all the time. We can be so quick to want to be together with people before we have been alone with the Father. We run to meet one another’s needs before we have heard from God or what the true need is.
This is so unlike Jesus.
In the account of Lazarus, John 11 says that Jesus tarried two days after he heard that Lazarus was sick. During this time, perhaps, he spent time in prayer seeking God’s purpose in the matter. Most people would have been motivated by the need and would have rushed to be with his family, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. But Jesus was not motivated by this need. So, he stayed. As a result, he was chided by Martha and Mary that if he would have been with them, Lazarus would not have died.
However, as the account continues, we see that Jesus had been alone with the Father and had already talked to him about raising Lazarus from the dead. Then he spoke, “Lazarus come forth,” and Lazarus did.
Learn more about solitude with Class 3 of our free Spiritual Formation video course.
The Ultimate in Being Alone
The last few days in the life of Jesus are the classic example of being alone. It was during this week that almost all of his disciples left him, Judas betrayed him, two whole nations condemned him, and he was separated from his Father.
It all began in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there that his chosen disciple could not stay awake with him as he faced his greatest need, and from there his disciples ran and later denied him. It was there that he learned the greatest lesson in being alone.
While alone in the garden, Jesus made the final choice to lay down his life for the rest of the world.
Earlier, he had been offered all of the kingdoms of the world by Satan. That offer still stood. He could rise up by force and not have to face the agony of the cross. The Father, however, knew that force would not really deal with the whole problem of loneliness in the world.
Here was Jesus, alone in a garden.
The whole world would soon rise against him because his life cried out against their selfishness. He was faced with saving his own life or laying it down for those who would take it. If there had been any other way to restore man to relationship with God and one another, Jesus would have chosen that way. Since there was no other way, he said to the Father,
“Thy will be done.”
Then he submitted himself, walked out of that last lonely garden, and gave his life to the world that it would no longer be segmented and lonely.
Just as Jesus gave himself for others in a time of aloneness, we too are called to lay our lives down for others.
One of the greatest keys to life is this: never look inward trying to find someone to fill our loneliness.
Through spending time alone with God and overcoming our own lusts, we can be brought to the place that we are not centered on ourselves.
Because Jesus centered on what would be good for the Father and good for others while he was alone in the garden, he was able to come out and serve others.
We can do the same.
So, we can see progressive steps in making right choices when alone. First, we must choose to face our own lusts and overcome them by the Word of God.
Next, we must learn to spend time with God when we would have a tendency to feel lonely.
Finally, in our times alone, we must consider others’ needs, rather than our own.
If you have been experiencing loneliness, take time to seek God for how you might grow through it. Let him make the right adjustments during your loneliness so that you will emerge as one who walks dead to the flesh, alive to God, and given to the lost and dying world.
Go deeper into the theme of solitude by taking our free Spiritual Formation video Course here.
Bill Henderson pastors Lexington Christian Fellowship in Lexington, Kentucky.
Subscribe to HIM Publications here to get blogs like this delivered to your inbox.