I’m writing this article today from a small coastal town in Maine. This morning, before turning to my work, I went running on a boardwalk trail through a red maple salt marsh. God’s Creation was so still, as if it was awaiting the new day. Fog lay over the marsh in wisps. Beach roses and the salty smell of the ocean surrounded me. The ground was wet with the abundant dew that graces the grass even in the summertime in northern climates.
As I wound through the stretch of trail, the fresh sea and woods air in my lungs, I found myself truly speaking to God without distraction for the first time in a long time. It was so peaceful and refreshing for my soul. I hadn’t even realized how much I needed that time of solitude.
Our world is so busy. People comment on this all the time: how we seem to have every moment of every day booked with things we have to get done, how our to-do lists seem to fill up with tasks faster than we can check them off, how we want to take time for solitude and refreshing our souls, but how it just rarely happens with the constant obligations to family, friends, work, church, and home, along with the constant buzz of technology and social media.
Most of us seem to know we need to make a change and incorporate times of quiet and reflection on the Lord’s goodness into our lives, but good intentions often fall short. What can we do to make these times of quiet and reflection a reality?
In his article for Relevant, “You Know You Need to Slow Down: Here’s How,” worship pastor Will Retheford shares how he has been impressed with the need for reflection and quiet in the Christian life, and offers three helpful suggestions for making times of quiet a regular practice.
“Solitude fuels us so we can be engaged and loving to the world. Solitude is our confidence when we are alone with Christ.”
Jesus Himself set an example of retreating to a quiet place to commune with His Father without the distractions of the world. In the midst of His earthly ministry, He did not neglect His vibrant relationship with His Father:
“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed: (Luke 5:15-16).
So, we know times of quiet and reflection are important, but how do we make this a reality in our lives?
Retheford’s three points are as follows:
1. Silence. Retheford writes, “It can be listening to the air and the sounds of nature. It can be acknowledging yourself as a living being, and can be reminding yourself that the universe is much bigger than you.” This may sound easy, but for most of us in this modern world, it takes practice. For example, I like to exercise in the mornings and I try to incorporate times of stretching into my workout routine. The problem is, I tend to rush through (or even skip) these times of gentler movement because I figure it’s more important to get some good cardio in before I have to get to the other things I need to do that day. I often have to remind myself that it’s just as important to get in tune with my body, my breathing, to align my thoughts for the day, to take time to let God speak to me while I am still.
2. Reflection. In order to have meaningful times of reflection on God’s Word and His goodness to us, we need to be in a place--both physically and spiritually--where we can pursue a deep connection with the Lord, unhindered. “Reflecting on the Bible is critical to develop a rich spiritual life that is in flow with the word of God. This can make us more effective communicators and listeners because we are connected to the Divine presence,” writes Retheford. This physical place will likely be different from person to person. I’ve always loved nature and the outdoors, so a beautiful forest, a quiet lake, or a serene beach are ideal places for me. Figure out where you are most likely to be in the right frame of mind to turn your thoughts to God and prioritize spending time at that place. Often, taking the step of being in a place which is conducive to reflection on the Lord and His Word is the critical step in having a meaningful time of communion with Him.
3. Meditation. This is going a step deeper. What specific attribute of God do you want to dwell on? What passage of Scripture do you want to delve into more deeply? Allow yourself to let go of your preconceived notions that you’ve heard a passage before and you know what there is to know about it already. Be open to new things God may be teaching you. As in the famous passage in I Kings 19, God often speaks to us in a whisper, which we will be more likely to hear and be receptive to if we are in a physically and spiritually calm and peaceful place, as the remote mountain where the prophet Elijah was in the passage.
I encourage you to ask yourself what place allows you best to commune with God. Once you’ve figured that out, make it a priority to go there. You may not experience a brilliant moment of epiphany that first time you go there for silence, reflection, and meditation, but as you incorporate frequent times of prayer and rest into your walk with the Lord, you can be sure He is working.
What places do you like to go to to connect with the Lord and have times of quiet? Share your thoughts below!
Photo courtesy: Unsplash
Publication date: June 19, 2017
Veronica Neffinger is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com