“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” – Luke 5:16
Work. Family. Social Life. Planning. Deadlines. Executing. Relationships. Making dreams a reality. Looking good. Making friends. Being a good friend, child, sibling, aunty/uncle… sometimes it can seem never ending and truthfully, overwhelming. Not always, but sometimes. And maybe like me, you’ve felt like you need a breather from everything. But there’s nothing on your list you can stop doing, so you keep going.
But there is. I personally love going away to retreats. Retreating doesn’t always look the same, sometimes it can be a solo trip, a weekend locked in your bedroom with no socialising, a staycation, a retreat with your church or Christian organisation; there are many different types of retreats. The most important part is being away with God.
There is a place of intimacy and rest in God that you can cultivate if you feel like you do not have it organically. For example, you can schedule times of rest and retreat into your calendar ahead of time, at a realistic and necessary frequency that suits you (this is aside from your daily time of prayer and fellowship with God). As not everyone has the opportunity to depart whenever they want to wherever they want for different reasons. I strongly believe in the beauty of personal retreats for the strengthening and rest of your soul.
Studies tell us that when we are thirsty, it is actually a sign of dehydration. We are constantly meant to be drinking water, keeping our fluids high. Thirst is the brain’s way of warning us we are dehydrated. But we do not need to wait until the warning to keep ourselves hydrated. The same way we do not need to wait for burnout to know we need to depart to a lonely place and fellowship with God. You don’t have to wait until you feel like you need a break before you take a break, or have a personal retreat. Scripture tells us of numerous times Jesus departed from crowds to be away, it isn’t said that He suddenly felt overwhelmed. But I believe Jesus was so sensitive to the needs of His soul that He knew when He needed to depart. In the place of departure, beautiful encounters took place or followed.
To be alone does not always mean being lonely. But a lonely place is one absent of distraction. Sometimes, we require solitude in order to be better versions of ourselves. And in the place of solitude, we can feel surrounded by the presence of our Lord.
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and His apostles didn’t even have time to eat.
– Mark 6:31
In scripture, there are many times Jesus departed; sometimes with His close friends, other times with His disciples, many times alone. Each time was different but pivotal. Rest and retreat is not a sin, nor is it laziness or idleness. After going out and sharing the gospel, Jesus calls His disciples away with Him to rest. They hadn’t complained about tiredness, but He called them away with Himself anticipating their need ahead of them.
The Lord does that with us. Yes, there are assignments and things to do, but our God also knows we need rest too, like He gave to Elijah. And He calls us away with Himself. Although crowds still sought them out, when Jesus departed with His disciples to rest, miracles still took place; the feeding of the 5,000. This shows that even in the place of rest they were still fulfilling their purpose and living out the call. Like us. Retreating is not a break from God, but rest IN Him. It doesn’t take away from who we are.
In a loud and busy world, solitude is very much a necessity. Withdrawing can be refocusing. Let’s not seek crowds, let’s seek Christ. Let’s not pursue stages to perform or show off, but altars to worship.
Find times of rest and retreat with the Lord. Your soul will definitely benefit from it!