Tag Archives: Christian Solitude

Alone, Yet Not Alone


LoneHiker

“Human love is only a little trickling stream; God’s love is a great river, broadening into a shoreless ocean! “

J. R. Miller

“But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” John 16:32

The loneliness of Jesus while in this world was one of the most pathetic elements of His experience. There are two kinds of loneliness.

One is, when a person is away from all human presences. A man who had been shipwrecked and had drifted for many hours on a piece of wreckage, spoke of the terrible feeling of desolation he experienced when on all alone on the waters, he could see no sign of human life, hear no voice, get no ear to listen to his calls of distress.

But there is another loneliness. One may be in the midst of people–and yet be utterly without companionship. Were you never oppressed with a sense of loneliness in a crowd that surged all about you and pressed close to you on every side? Think of the loneliness of one who lands from a foreign country and enters the throngs on the streets of a strange city–but sees no face he ever has seen before, catches no glance of recognition from any eye. In a surging multitude of human beings–he is utterly alone. It takes more than human presence to make companionships; hearts must touch; there must be love and sympathy.

In a sense, Christ was always alone in this world. His very greatness of character, made it impossible for Him to find real, deep, and full companionship. All great men are in a sense, solitary men. Their exalted life lifts them above the plane in which other people live. They are like the few tall mountain peaks of the earth that lift their heads far above the clouds, and wear their crowns of unmelting snows. The little hills are not lonesome, for there are so many of them–but the giant mountains are lonely in their solitariness because there are so few of them. The world’s few great men are solitary, because common people cannot rise into companionship with them in thought, in feeling, in purpose. Christ found no fellow, no equal, no real companion, among men.

Then, in His work as Redeemer, Christ was alone. He had few friends. There is infinite pathos in such words as these, which describe His personal loneliness: “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him–and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own–and His own received him not” (John 1:10, 11). He revealed His feeling of aloneness and sense of homelessness when He said, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:58). Thus in the midst of multitudes, His own people, too, not foreigners, those also He had come to deliver and save–He was alone because hearts and homes were shut against Him.

Then, too, Jesus had a gentle heart, which craved affection and companionship. There are some men with cold, stern natures, who are indifferent to the coldness they meet in the world. They desire no sympathy. They are not pained by men’s rejection. Opposition acts as stimulus to them. They almost court unpopularity. But Jesus craved affection and sympathy. We remember how He welcomed love whenever it came to Him; what a strength the beloved disciple was to Him; what a shelter and comfort the Bethany home, with its love, was to Him; how even the slightest tokens of kindness comforted and cheered His heart. We see also His deep craving for companionship in the Garden, when He wanted His closest friends near Him in His bitter agony and so deeply felt the disappointment when they slept and did not watch with Him. Jesus was not, then, a cold, iron man, who was unaffected by the indifferences and rejection of the people. He suffered keenly from every unloving act and touch. This intensified His loneliness.

Here we have another phase of Christ’s loneliness. “You will be scattered, each to his own home.” The only human relief to His loneliness, along the years of His public ministry, was in the love of His friends; and this love, we know, was very imperfect. These friends, though loyal and devoted, never fully understood their Master. They had an earthly conception of His Messiahship, yet they were very unspiritual. They hurt Him continually by their lack of gentleness, thoughtfulness, and perfect trust. They grieved Him unintentionally, of course, ignorantly, loving Him still–but giving Him pain every day by the rudeness and harshness of their contacts with His sensitive heart. Very poor and imperfect, indeed, was the companionship which He found even with the gentlest and truest of His human friends.

But now He looks forward to the losing of even this solace and support, “You will be scattered, each to his own home, and shall leave me alone.” Even the little company of friends, who had walked with Him along the way, would desert Him in the hour of His supreme trial. We remember how it was. One of those who had eaten bread with Him, dipping His hand in the same dish, betrayed Him! Another, until then His bravest confessor, denied even knowing Him! They all forsook Him and fled. Alone, He was led away to His trial. Alone, He was left to stand before the court and before the governor. Loving and craving love as no other ever loved and craved love, He was left alone–with no pitying eye, with not one friendly voice raised in His behalf. At the close of a life given to love of men and to efforts to save men–He was left with no one confessing to have been helped or saved by Him, no friend, no follower; abandoned to the cruelty of brutal men. Even Barabbas, a notorious criminal, found friends that day, while Jesus, who had given His life to gentle deeds and kind ministries, was dragged away by His enemies through the streets, as if He had been a murderer, with no one to speak a word for Him.

But read what He says of this hour of abandonment: “You will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” There was One whose companionship never failed Him for a moment. Through the years when His infinite divine nature found such meager, imperfect fellowship even in the best love of human friends–He had but to turn His face toward His Father to have His hungry heart filled. When His affectionate nature met only misunderstanding, coldness, rejection, and antagonism among the people for whose love and trust He so hungered, He would go away at nightfall, apart from men, and on some mountaintop or in some deep garden shade, He would commune with One who was all love, who never misunderstood Him, and in whose blessed companionship all of the hungers of His heart were satisfied, and all the hurts of love were healed.

One of the most touching incidents in the Gospels, described what occurred at the close of one day in the temple. “Every man went unto His own house; but Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives” (see John 7:53-8:1). It was evening night was gathering. It was time for all to go away. But nobody asked Jesus home with him. They went to their own fine houses on the great streets, leaving Him there. Then He, homeless, with no place to go, no place to lay His head that night, climbed the Mount of Olives, and there stayed alone–alone, but not alone, because the Father was with Him.

We may apply the words to experiences in our own lives. We, too, have our times of loneliness. In a certain sense, all life is lonely. Even with sympathetic friends all about us, there is an inner life which one of us lives, in which we are solitary. We must make our own decisions and choices. We must meet our own questions and answer them ourselves. We must fight our own battles, endure our own sorrows, carry our own burdens. Friendship may be very close, so close that it seems to us there is no part of our deepest life, which our friend does not share with us; yet there is an inner sanctuary of each human life, into which even the most perfect friendship may not enter.

Blessed are those who in this aloneness can say, “Yet I am not alone, because my Father is with me!” God is the only friend who can really enter into the inner sanctuary of our life. God’s is the only companionship we can really have in the inner experiences of our hearts. God’s is the only friendship that can really meet all our soul’s deep needs and cravings. Human love is only a little trickling stream; God’s love is a great river, broadening into a shoreless ocean! Human companionship helps us at a few points; the divine fellowship flows all about us and enters into every experience of ours. We never can be left alone–if we still have Christ. When other helpers and comforts flee–He will abide with us. When other faces fade out of view–His face will appear, shining out with perfect love, pouring its holy light upon us. “I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

There are special times when we are alone. Pain sets us apart. We have to endure it alone. In any pain or grief of yours, you may have truest friends surrounding you–but none of them can bear one pang for you. Sometimes we almost blame our friends because they do not come near to us in our trouble, because they do not appear to feel for us or sympathize with us. We say they do not understand us. We think they ought to help us more. But the truth is–we have to live all our inner lives alone. Our friends love us and want to help us, but they cannot. None can fully understand us. None can really help us in any deep and efficient way. Those about us, even those who are our truest friends, who sympathize with us most fully, leave us alone because they cannot share our suffering. But we can always say, “I am not alone–because the Father is with me!”

There is a loneliness which is made by the breaking up of homes. A true home is an incalculable blessing to the young lives that nestle in it. It is a shelter where they find protection. It is a school where they are educated, where they learn life’s lessons. There is guidance also in a true home. Many of life’s hardest questions, are answered by wise parents. Blessed is that young man or young woman who takes every perplexity, every mystery, every fear and doubt, every heart-hunger, to the sacredness of love’s sanctuary at home and gets wise counsel and guidance!

Home has also its blessed companionships. It is one place where we are absolutely sure of each other, where we need never suspect anyone, where we do not need to be on our guard. Youth has its unexpected longings, its deep cravings, its hunger for affection, its inexperience needing direction. A true home is the very shadow of Gods wings, the very cleft of the Rock of Ages, to those who abide in its love. But sometimes the home is torn down and its shelter broken up. Sore indeed is the loss when a young person, used to all that is gentle and satisfying in home tenderness, is driven out to homelessness. Other human friendships are very sweet–but they never can give back home with its rest and comfort. But blessed is he who in earthly homelessness can say, “Yet I am not alone!” Who can look into the face of Christ and breathe out the psalm of peace, “Lord, You are my dwelling place; You are home to my heart!”

Another time of special loneliness is that of old age. Old people often grow very lonely. Once they were the center of large groups of friends and companions. One by one the beloved associates slipped away. Now the old man or the old woman stands almost entirely alone. The streets are full, the church is full; but where are the faces of forty or fifty years ago? There is a memory of empty cribs, of vacant chairs, of little graves, of marriage altars–and then the starting of new homes, perhaps far away. But the old faces are gone. It is young life that now fills the home, the street, the church. Only here and there perhaps, is a companion of forty, fifty years ago remains. The old people are lonely.

Yet Christian old age can say, “I am not alone!” No changes can take Christ away. Other companions scatter, leaving them humanly alone–but He never departs. Indeed, Christ becomes more and more real to aged Christians–as other friends drop off and become fewer and fewer. While human friendships filled the life, Christ was not turned to very often, though He was believed in and loved. The joys that were needed were found so easily in the human loves that were always at hand, that Christ did not seem so indispensable, so necessary. But as one by one the earthly loved ones dropped off and slipped away, and could not be turned to in the time of need, then Christ began to be more necessary and was turned to more frequently. As the years went on, and more and more of the old friends were missing, Christ grew every day more precious, until now He is almost the only one left. Blessed is the aged Christian; he is now drawing near to glory. A little while longer–and he will enter heaven! Soon the old people will pass over, and find again, waiting for them, those who were once their friends here, companions once more, inseparable now, in heaven!

But it is not old people only, who are left lonely by life’s changes. Sorrow touches all ages. There is a continual breaking of human companionships. Blessed are those who can say with every bereavement, “Alone, yet not alone, because Christ is mine, and He never leaves me!” Then in Christ also, our human ties are made inseparable. We never really can lose each other if we are united in Christ. In Christ we never lose a friend.

But this is not all, nor the best. Human loneliness here, is filled with the divine presence of Christ. “I am not alone, because the Father is with me!”

There is no other loneliness in all human experience, like that of dying. We cannot die in companies, or in groups, nor even two by two. We must die alone. Two may walk together for long years, never divided in joy or sorrow. But they cannot die together. Human hands, however long they have held each other, must unclasp as the friends enter the valley of shadows–one taken, the other left. Human faces that have looked into ours through the years, must fade from our vision–as we pass into the mists of the valley of death.

“I cannot see you,” said a dying friend the other night, as the beloved ones stood about His bed. “I cannot see you.” So will it be with each of us some night. Human friends cannot go beyond the edge of the valley. “You shall leave me alone.” Yes, that will be true of each of us in our turn. But we need not be alone, even in that supreme moment. When the hand of human love unclasps–the hand of Christ will take your hand and lead you through the dark valley of death. When human faces fade out–Christ’s face will be revealed, with its welcome of infinite love. When you must creep out of the bosom of human affection, and pass into the mystery of death–it will be into the clasp of the Everlasting Arms! So death’s loneliness will be filled with divine companionship! “I am not alone, because the Father is with me!”

Thus the one great need of life–is Christ. If we do not have Christ–what will we do in life’s crises? When human joy fades–what will be left? When human companionships are stripped off–who will walk with us the rest of the lonely way? When death comes, and we must drift out from all we ever have known, from earth’s refuges and trusts and from earth’s familiar places and friends–where shall we go? In whom shall we trust? Who will receive us and lead us home? If we have not Christ, life is hopeless and the universe is homeless for us. But if we have Christ, then, no matter what is taken, He will remain–and He will suffice!

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A thing or two about sorrow


tears_of_sadness

So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory. (2 Tim 2:10)

If Job could have known as he sat there in the ashes, bruising his heart on this problem of Providence—that in the trouble that had come upon him he was doing what one man may do to work out the problem for the world, he might again have taken courage. No man lives to himself. Job’s life is but your life and mine written in larger text….So, then, though we may not know what trials wait on any of us, we can believe that, as the days in which Job wrestled with his dark maladies are the only days that make him worth remembrance, and but for which his name had never been written in the book of life, so the days through which we struggle, finding no way, but never losing the light, will be the most significant we are called to live.
—Robert Collyer

Who does not know that our most sorrowful days have been amongst our best? When the face is wreathed in smiles and we trip lightly over meadows bespangled with spring flowers, the heart is often running to waste.

The soul which is always blithe and gay misses the deepest life. It has its reward, and it is satisfied to its measure, though that measure is a very scanty one. But the heart is dwarfed; and the nature, which is capable of the highest heights, the deepest depths, is undeveloped; and life presently burns down to its socket without having known the resonance of the deepest chords of joy.

“Blessed are they that mourn.” Stars shine brightest in the long dark night of winter. The gentians show their fairest bloom amid almost inaccessible heights of snow and ice.

God’s promises seem to wait for the pressure of pain to trample out their richest juice as in a wine-press. Only those who have sorrowed know how tender is the “Man of Sorrows.”
—Selected

Thou hast but little sunshine, but thy long glooms are wisely appointed thee; for perhaps a stretch of summer weather would have made thee as a parched land and barren wilderness. Thy Lord knows best, and He has the clouds and the sun at His disposal.
—Selected

“It is a gray day.” “Yes, but dinna ye see the patch of blue?”
—Scotch Shoemaker

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The light of a new morning


 Lamentations 3:22-24

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

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The word of God says a new day brings new mercies. I think about that a lot on my morning walks before work. Just looking at things in the light of a new day often brings an entirely new perspective. Depending on the weather and the light, things take on new hues and subtle changes. Delicate flowers explode with color and beauty in the noon day sun, but even weeds have a certain shimmer in the first sprinkles of early morning dew and a new days awakening sunlight. I like to hike and take photographs and in order to capture God’s creation you need to notice certain things. I think there is hidden beauty in things often overlooked and my life is a lot like that sometimes. If I am not careful, and focus on earthly troubles my mind is no longer at peace and trusting in God’s promises. I can easily forget that my worries and cares, even afflictions are part of the school of Christ…only leading me to my eternal home and rest in Jesus.

James Meikle wrote in Solitude Sweetened

“Again, in the dark night of adversity, there are beauties seen, that were never seen in the broad day of prosperity. Manasseh, all the time he reigned in Judah, though it was a land of light, never knew God until he was taken among the thorns, bound in fetters, and carried to Babylon, where he prayed, was heard, pardoned, and liberated; and “then Manasseh knew that the Lord, he was God.” Thus, in the depths of affliction, he learned maxims more sublime, and of higher consequence, than he could attain to when seated on a throne. O desirable distress! that discloses and magnifies heavenly excellences, and diminishes earthly vanities!”

“From the depth of afflictions we see stupendous things”.

These are lessons I need to learn to find joy and comfort in. Let me leave you with some encouragement from God’s word that we can stand on no matter our circumstances today.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Matthew 11:28-29

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Isaiah 40:29-31

He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles.They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Romans 8:37-39

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Proverbs 1:33

But all who listen to me will live in peace,
untroubled by fear of harm.”

John 14:27

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

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Solitude Sweetened


I have had the greatest time lately. No parties, excitement or anything the least bit entertaining. I have simply been learning how to handle being still. This has nothing to do with contemplative anything, or quieting my mind or new age-ey style meditation. It’s simply something I have never really done before. Sitting still and getting alone and quiet, just me, my Bible and God. I have always read my Bible and studied but it’s been such a chore for me to just relax and learn to savor solitude. I was a very hyper little kid growing up and my Mom used to joke that there was never a time when I actually sat still. Literally I have always been moving.  I was always dancing around, getting  into things or trying to figure something out.  Unfortunately I am still a fidget-er and yes, a late night flopper just like on the mattress commercials. Old habits do in fact die hard…

It’s been difficult for me to try to learn how to relax and enjoy being quiet and reflective…God has been showing me how important this is and the bearing it has on my health, attitude and overall well being. I am slowly learning to enjoy life in the slow lane, moment by moment and to cherish the time I have doing well, much of nothing really.  I have been trying to take the time to really grasp scripture, and realize as a Christian that no matter my circumstance, having Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior is such a big deal, it transcends any and everything I could ever face. Just thinking about God and life and  how all those cliches about smelling coffee and roses really are true sometimes.  During this time I have come to love so many wonderful writers but Octavius Winslow has quickly become a favorite. This is his, a Brother in Christ and a lover of solitude. Enjoy gentle reader……

Teresa

Solitude Sweetened

Octavius Winslow

“I am not alone, because the Father is with me” —John 16:32.

It was not one of the least mournful features in the Savior’s humiliation that the path he trod was in a measure solitary, and that the sorrow he endured was in its character a lonely one. He had created and had peopled the world—he had given to man a social constitution, had inspired the pulsation of love, and had imparted to his creatures a secret and strong affinity of mind to mind; and yet he was in the world as one to whom it afforded no home, and proffered no friendship. And was this no felt-trial to the Son of God? Did it enter nothing into the curse which he came to endure? Did it add no gall-bitter to his cup, no keenness to the sadness of his heart, no deepening to the shade upon his brow? Did the absence of a perfectly congenial mind, assimilating spirit, fond, confiding, sympathizing heart, on whose pillow he could lay to rest the corroding cares and mental disquietudes which agitated his own, create no aching void in the Redeemer’s bosom? Surely it must. Our Lord was human—though divine—and as man he must have felt, at times, an intensity of yearning for human companionship proportioned to his capacity to enjoy, and his power to enrich it. The human sympathies and affections that belonged to him, pure and elevated as they were, could only awaken a responsive chord in a human breast. And for this he must have sighed. He was formed for the enjoyment of life, was endowed with a sensibility to the objects around him. He had affections—and he delighted to indulge them: he had a heart—and he longed to bestow it.

There were times, too, when he seemed to contract an attachment to inanimate objects: the tree beneath whose shade he had occasionally sat, the fields over whose verdure he had roamed, the sequestered spots where he had often strayed, the sea whose shores he had frequently trod, the mountain-slopes where he had been wont to stand, associated as they were with communion with God and converse with his disciples, had become sacred and endeared haunts to the holy and sensitive heart of Jesus.

It might indeed be said that the Savior loved and coveted solitude, occasionally stealing away to some favorite place for meditation and prayer. But there were other and more frequent occasions, especially in the deep, lonely sorrow of Gethsemane, when he seemed to feel the need and to ask the soothing of human sympathy. With what melting tones must these words have fallen on the ears of his little band of followers: “Tarry here, and watch with me.”

Yes, our Lord’s was a solitary life. He mingled indeed with man—he labored for man—he associated with man—he loved man—but he “trod the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with him.” And yet he was not all alone. Creatures, one by one, had indeed deserted his side, and left him homeless, friendless, solitary—but there was One, the consciousness of whose ever-clinging, ever-brightening, ever-cheering presence infinitely more than supplied the lack. “Behold, the hour comes, yes, is now come, that you shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”

But from the history of Jesus let us turn to a parallel page in the history of his saints. The disciples of Christ, like their Lord and Master, often feel themselves alone. The season of sickness—the hour of bereavement—the period of trial, is often the occasion of increased depression from the painful consciousness of the solitude and loneliness in which it is borne. The heavenly way we travel is more or less a lonely way. We have, at most, but few companions. It is a “little flock,” and only here and there we meet a traveler, who, like ourselves, is journeying towards the Zion of God. As the way is narrow, trying and humiliating to flesh, but few, under the drawings of the Spirit, find it.

If, indeed, true religion consisted in mere profession, then there were many for Christ. If the marks of discipleship were merely an orthodox creed—excited feeling—denominational zeal—flaming partisanship, then there are many that “find the way.” But if the true travelers are men of broken heart—poor in spirit—who mourn for sin—who know the music of the Shepherd’s voice—who follow the Lamb—who delight in the throne of grace—and who love the place of the cross, then there are but ‘few’ with whom the true saints journey to heaven in fellowship and communion.
But the path is even narrower than this—the circle is smaller still. How few real companions do we meet even among the saints of God! Loving them as we do, and yearning for a wider fellowship, yet how few there are with whom we can walk side by side! Doctrine divides us from some. If we speak of God’s eternal love, and free choice, and discriminating mercy, we offend. “When our Lord preached the doctrine of sovereign grace, we read that “from that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” O it is a solemn and affecting thought, that even the very doctrines of Christ’s gospel build a wall of partition between his true disciples.

Church government and ordinances sunder others. The blemishes and imperfections still clinging to the saints, such indeed as separated Paul and Barnabas, often interrupt the full harmony of Christian communion.

The difference of spirituality, too, which we find in the Lord’s people, tends to abate much of that communion which ought to distinguish the one family of God. We meet, perhaps, with but few who have been taught precisely in our school, who see truth as we see it, and who observe ordinances as we observe them, or who can understand the intricacies of Christian experience through which, with toil and difficulty, we are threading our way. Few keep the same pace in the Christian race with us. Some linger behind, while others outrun us. There is one always so lost in a sense of his unworthiness as never to enter into our joy; and there is another towering, as on the eagle’s wing, and soaring into a region whose very purity awes, and whose effulgence dazzles us. Thus are we learning the solitariness of the way, even in the very church and family of God within which we are embosomed.

But not from these causes alone springs the sense of loneliness which the saints often feel. There is the separation of loving hearts, and of kindred minds, and of intimate relationships, by the providential ordering and dealings of God. The changes of this changing world—the alteration of circumstances—the removals to new and distant positions—the wastings of disease and the ravages of death, often sicken the heart with a sense of friendlessness and loneliness which finds its best expression in the words of the Psalmist: “I watch, and am as a sparrow alone on the house-top.” But if God “places the solitary in families,” as he occasionally does, he more frequently sets the godly apart from others; and this has often been found to be one of his wisest and holiest appointments. “Come away and rest awhile;” “I will allure her into the wilderness,” are divine expressions which would seem to indicate this instructive truth.

Shall we enter the chamber of sickness? Ah! what solitude reigns here. The gentle movement, the subdued voice, the soft tread, the smouldering embers, the shaded light, all signify that the scenes and the society and the excitement of the world without, intrude not upon the stillness of that world within. Weeks and months and years roll on, and still God keeps his child a “prisoner of hope.” But since he has done it, it must be well done, for “his way is perfect.”

To be arrested in the midst of activity, enterprise, and usefulness,—to be snatched from the pinnacle of honorable distinction, from the scene of pleasant labor, from the soothing society of friends, from the bosom of the domestic circle, within all of which we were so warmly nestled, and to find ourselves the sickly occupant of a lone and gloomy chamber, from which books and friends and family are excluded, is to some a trial of faith and patience demanding grace of no ordinary degree. The pastor torn from his flock, feels it,—the minister banished from his pulpit, feels it,—the Christian laborer laid aside from his loved employ, feels it,—the mother separated from her little ones, feels it; all feel it to be a school of which, though the teaching is most blessed, yet the discipline is most severe.

Shall we enter the house of mourning? Here is solitude indeed—the heart-aching solitude such as death only can create. What an awful stillness reigns here! The dread silence of all sounds has entered; even the living seem to hold their breath while the king of terrors passes by. The blinded windows—the light foot-fall—the wrapped thoughtfulness—the suppressed conversation—the air of desolateness resting on each countenance—and speaking from each eye, betokens how sad and deep and lonely is the grief with which each heart is breaking. Ah, yes! what a solitude does death often create in the life of the Christian.

The old companion, and the confiding friend removed—the “strong staff broken, and the beautiful rod,”—what a blank does the universe appear? But should we murmur at the solitary way along which our God is conducting us? Is it not his way, and therefore the best way? In love he gave us friends—in love he has removed them. In goodness he blessed us with health—in goodness he has taken it away. In faithfulness he vouchsafed to us affluence—in faithfulness he has recalled it.

And yet this is the way along which he is conducting us to glory. And shall we rebel? Heaven is the home of the saints; “here we have no continuing city.” And shall we repine that we are in the right road to heaven? What, if in weariness and sorrow, you were journeying to the metropolis, where your heart’s fondest treasure was embosomed; and you were to come to a way on whose finger-post was inscribed,—“The road to London,” or, “The road to Paris,” would you, because that road was lone and dreary and irksome, indulge in repining feelings, or waste your moments and your energies in useless regrets? Would you divert into another and an opposite, because a more pleasant and inviting path?

No! The image of your home with its sweet attractions—reposing like a fairy island in the sunny distance—would give wings to your feet, and carpet every step of that rough way with a soft mantle of green. Christ, your heart’s treasure, is there! And will you murmur that the way that leads you to it and to him is sometimes enshrouded with dark and mournful solitude? O the distinguished privilege of treading the path that Jesus walked in!

But the solitude of the Christian has its sweetness. The Savior tasted it when he said, “I am not alone, because the Father is with me;” and all the lonely way that he traveled he leaned upon God. Formed for human friendship, and even knowing something of its enjoyment—for there reposed upon his breast the disciple whom he loved—he yet drew the love that sweetened his solitude from a higher than a human source. His disciples were scattered, and he was left to plod his weary way alone: but his Father with him—O this was enough!

The companionship of God is the highest, purest, sweetest mercy a saint of God can have on earth. Yes, it is the highest, purest, sweetest bliss the saints of God can have in heaven. What is the enjoyment of heaven? Not merely exemption from trial, and freedom from sorrow, and rest from toil, and release from conflict: O no! it is the presence—the full, unclouded presence of our Father there. To be with Christ—to behold his glory—to gaze upon his face—to hear his voice—to feel the throbbings of his bosom—to bask in the effulgence of God’s presence—O this is heaven, the heaven of heaven!

The twilight of this glory we have here on earth. “I am not alone,” can each sorrowful and banished soul exclaim, “because the Father is with me.” Yes, beloved, your own Father. “You shall call me, my Father.” In Jesus he is your Father—your reconciled, pacified Father—all whose thoughts that he thinks of you, are peace; and all whose ways that he takes with you, are love. The presence, the voice, the smile of a parent, how precious and soothing! especially when that presence is realized, and that voice is heard, and that smile is seen in the dark desolate hour of adversity.

God is our heavenly parent. His presence, his care, his smiles are ever with his children. And if there be a solitary child of the one family that shares the richer in the blessing of the Father’s presence than another, it is the sick, the suffering, the lone, the chastened child. Yes, your Father is with you always. He is with you to cheer your loneliness—to sweeten your solitude—to sanctify your sorrow—to strengthen your weakness—to shield your person—to pardon your sins, and to heal all your diseases.

Hearken in your deep solitude to his own touching words: “Fear you not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.” Enough, my Father! if thus you are with me, I am not, I cannot be alone—and if such the bliss with which you do sweeten, and such the glory with which you do irradiate the solitude of your hidden ones, Lord, let me ever be a hidden one—shut out from all others, shut in alone with you!

“You are near,—yes, Lord, I feel it,
You are near wherever I move;
And though sense would sincerely conceal it,
Faith often whispers it in love.
“You are near,—O what a blessing
To the souls your love has blest!
Souls, your daily care confessing,
Daily by their God confessed.
“Why should I despond or tremble
When Jehovah stoops to cheer?
But O far rather, why dissemble
When Omniscience is near!
“Am I weak? your arm will lead me
Safe through every danger, Lord:
Am I hungry? you will feed me
With the manna of your Word.
“Am I thirsting? you will guide me
Where refreshing waters flow;
Faint or feeble, you will provide me
Grace for every need I know.
“Am I fearful? you will take me
Underneath your wings, my God!
Am I faithless? you will make me
Bow beneath your chastening rod.
“Am I drooping? you are near me,
Near to hear me on my way:
Am I pleading? You will hear me,
Hear and answer when I pray.
“Then, O my soul, since God does love you,
Faint not, droop not, do not fear;
For though his heaven is high above you,
He himself is ever near!
“Near to watch your wayward spirit,
Sometimes cold and careless grown;
But likewise near with grace and merit,
All your Savior’s, His, His own.” [J.S. Monsell]

There are many thoughts calculated to sweeten the season of Christian solitude which we need but simply suggest to the reflective mind. You cannot be in reality alone when you remember that Christ and you are one—that by his Spirit he dwells in the heart, and that therefore he is always near to participate in each circumstance in which you may be placed. Your very solitude he shares: with your sense of loneliness he sympathizes. You cannot be friendless—since Christ is your friend. You cannot be relationless—since Christ is your brother. You cannot be unprotected—since Christ is your shield.

Do you need an arm to lean upon?—his is outstretched. Do you need a heart to repose in?—his invites you to its affection and its confidence. Do you need a companion to converse with?—he welcomes you to his fellowship. O sweet solitude, sweetened by such a Savior as this!—always present to comfort, to counsel, and to protect in times of trial, perplexity, and danger.

There is so much soothing in the reflection that it is a Father’s presence that sweetens the solitude of his child, that I know not how to express it. “MY FATHER IS WITH ME!” O what words are these! Who can harm you now? What can befall you? When and where can you be alone, if your heavenly Father is with you? He is with you on the ocean, he is with you on the land. He is with you in your exile, he is with you at home. Friends may forsake, and kindred may die, and circumstances may change—but “my Father is with me!” may still be your solace and your boast.

And O to realize the presence of that Father—to walk with God in the absorbing consciousness of his loving eye never removed, of his solemn presence never withdrawn, of his encircling arm never untwined—welcome the solitude, welcome the loneliness, welcome the sorrow, cheered and sweetened and sanctified by such a realization as this! “I am not alone, because my Father is with me.”

Let the season of temporary solitude be a time of earnest prayer—of deep searching of heart—of much honest, close, filial transaction with yourself and with God. He may have allured you into the wilderness, he may thus have set you apart from all others for this very end. You have been communing much with books, and with men, he would now have you commune with your own heart and with himself!

And this, too, may be the school in which he is about to train you for greater responsibility, for more extended usefulness, and for higher honors in his church. Moses was withdrawn from Pharaoh’s court and banished to the solitude of the wilderness forty years, in order to train him to be the great legislator and leader of God’s people. Who can tell what numerous blessings are about to be realized by you, and through you, by the church of God, from the present season of silence and repose through which you are passing?

O to feel a perfect satisfaction, yes, an ecstatic delight, with all that our heavenly Father does! Submission is sweet, resignation is sweeter, but joyous satisfaction with the whole of God’s conduct is sweeter still. “My Father, not my will but yours be done.” Be this, then, your solace—this your boast—this your midnight harmony—“I AM NOT ALONE, BECAUSE MY FATHER IS WITH ME.”

“How heavily the path of life
Is trod by him who walks alone,
Who hears not, on his dreary way,
Affection’s sweet and cheering tone;
Alone, although his heart should bound
With love to all things great and fair,
They love not him,—there is not one
His sorrow or his joy to share.
“Alone,—though in the busy town,
Where hundreds hurry to and fro—
If there is none who for his sake
A selfish pleasure would forego;
And O how lonely among those
Who have not skill to read his heart,
When first he learns how summer friends
At sight of wintry storms depart.
“My Savior! and did you too feel
How sad it is to be alone,
Deserted in the adverse hour
By those who must your love have known?
The gloomy path, though distant, still
Was ever present to your view;
O how could you foreseeing it,
For us that painful course pursue?
“Forsaken of your nearest friends,
Surrounded by malicious foes—
No kindly voice encouraged you,
When the loud shout of scorn uprose.
Yet there was calm within your soul,
No stoic pride that calmness kept,
Nor Godhead unapproached by woe—
Like man you had both loved and wept.
“You were not then alone, for God
Sustained you by his mighty power;
His arm most felt, his care most seen,
When needed most in saddest hour.
None else could comfort, none else knew
How dreadful was the curse of sin;
He who controlled the storm without,
Could gently whisper peace within.
“Who is alone if God be near?
Who shall repine at loss of friends,
While he has One of boundless power,
Whose constant kindness never ends
Whose presence felt, enhances joy,
Whose love can stop each flowing tear,
And cause upon the darkest cloud
The bow of mercy to appear.”

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