A healthy, thriving relationship with God is not
native to our toxic world. Therefore, for our relationship with God to
flourish, it’s essential that we take seriously the greenhousing of our
soul and its relationship with God. That means we must learn to pay
attention and yield to the provision God makes for us as he provides the best
environment in which we will grow in this foreign land. Our soul’s relationship
with God will thrive only if we allow God to cherish and nourish us.
Thus, I’ve learned, my desperate need, from time to time, is “to go into
Arabia.” The expression is found in a letter Paul wrote to one of the early
churches (see Galatians 1:13, 15-17). There Paul points out that after his
life-altering encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he took some time
to get away and sort through the issues in his life, to find what mattered
most. He “went away into Arabia” so he could think about the ultimate questions
of who God was, who he was, and what their relationship meant.
As I ponder this particular season of solitude and silence in Paul’s life, I
imagine him sitting alone in the desert, listening for the sound that’s far
more subtle than the whining of the desert wind, quietly and wholeheartedly
listening for the whispering voice of God. When I reflect on those occasions
when I’ve sensed that God was speaking to me, I’ve always found God’s voice to
be a quiet, non-demanding voice. God doesn’t insist that I listen. God never
speaks with a raised voice. A friend of mine, a biblical scholar, translates
the reference to God speaking to Elijah in 1 Kings 19 as “a thin silence.”
God’s voice wasn’t heard in the noise of the powerful earthquake, the wind, or
the fire; God’s voice was heard in the thin silence.
With my mind’s eye, I can see Paul sitting in Arabia some nights until very
late, accompanied only by the desert stars. And there, not writing, not
planning, not traveling about, not preaching…not doing any of the things he’s
most known for today…he quietly carved out the deep convictions of his soul. In
solitude, he hammered out the beliefs on which he would build the rest of his
life. Paul wrestled with the things of God until God possessed him and he
Most important & difficult
“Going into Arabia” and communing with God is the single most important, most
difficult thing I’ve ever chosen to do. Yet I know of no other antidote for the
plague that threatens all of us. The “barrenness of busyness,” more than
anything else has robbed my days of meaning and a sense of God’s presence. An
endless round of appointments and responsibilities and assignments and details
wears me down. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to hard work. But I am
opposed to running on empty.
For that reason, I’ve learned to recognize that when there’s no time for
solitude and silence, my activity ceases to be effective. Without listening for
God’s quiet voice, my ministry lacks power and authenticity. Without silence,
my words lose meaning. When solitude and silence are absent from my life, the
best of my intentions warp badly.
Going into Arabia is about being alone, quiet, and entering into the place of
focused, concentrated prayer. It’s when the deepest part of me reaches out for
the deepest part of God. Taking solitude and silence seriously is one of the
surest ways I know to put some worth on my soul, a worth that, perhaps, is the
dimension of our life we ignore most often.
What comes to mind when
you hear the words solitude & silence?
If solitude isn’t a part
of the rhythm of your life, what’s the reason?
Written by Fil Anderson.
Fil Anderson is a spiritual director, conference speaker, writer and retreat
leader. He served on the Young Life staff for 25 years.