Christ's Voluntary Solitude

In His life on earth, our Lord understood the value of occasional withdrawal from human companionship.

The principle occasions of His voluntary solitude were:---

For prayer---' Every man went unto his own house. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.' How full of pathos are these simple words! We picture Christ silently winding His way through the crowd as the evening shadows fall, overhearing, as He goes, remarks passed from lip to lip about Himself---some of them appreciative and kind, some indifferent, some contemptuous, some full of hate. We see the crowd slowly thinning as street after street is traversed; we see one door after another opening to receive the inmates of the various homes. We think of the companies reassembling within for the evening meal and interchange of talk. Then we think of that lonely Stranger still passing on---no friendly door opening for Him, no voice of welcome inviting Him---passing on and out by the city gate, and up the long slope of the olive-shaded hill to find His resting-place beneath the stars.

The homeless Man of Sorrows had no private prayer-chamber whose door He might shut in order to talk with God. No man offered Him a place where He might lay His head. Well, He would lay it down beneath His Father's trees, upon His Father's breast.

And this was no exceptional thing with Him. It was His habitual practice, even though some friendly home was willing to shelter Him. Again and again in the gospel story we read such words as these: 'He withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed'; 'Rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed'; and what strikes us with surprise is to find that frequently such a night of solitary prayer came in between two days each of which was so full with labors of love for others that He had scarce one hour in them to call His own, and 'no leisure so much as to eat.'

In temptation.---He was alone in the wilderness with the devil; alone upon the mountain; alone in the Garden; alone on the Cross. He knew what it was to have the inner life of trust in the unseen Father stormed by hosts of suspicions and misgivings; to have the steadfastness of one's obedience tested by the dread of mortal anguish and the lures of fleshly ease. Yes, but He was not left quite alone even in the solitude of His temptations; and the same Divine help which He enjoyed He is able to extend to us. Who would not bear the loneliness that he might taste such fellowship? It is when no man stands by us that our Joseph discovers Himself to His brethren; and the presence of Jehovah is a secret place.

In times of great temptation the presence of the Lord will be a support like no other presence. When the storm rises high and it seems as if the ship were sinking, to turn to the Lord, and, as it were, to wake Him out of His slumber with the cry, 'Lord save us, we perish,' never fails of an answer. The Lord is there, He can calm this turmoil which is within the heart. He can calm it, and He will. How often does the Christian recognize not only that He will, but that He has done it again and again, until at last the storm is quelled for ever, and such terrible emergencies and trials torment us no more. So, too, in times of deep distress, when we feel as if there was nothing to which we could turn, because of the terrible trouble that has overshadowed our life, when we feel, as we sometimes do, the effect of some terrible blow that has laid us low, that has robbed us of friends, that has interfered with our service, that has taken away our power to serve---at all such times the Lord is with us. The Christian who abides in Christ finds Christ within him, and troubles are all soothed at thought of His presence.

The benefits He received from this withdrawal were refreshment and strengthening for His daily task, and a store of strength for the great trials to come. Day by day, during the comparatively quite, unexciting and peaceful period of His ministry, He drank deeply at that unfailing fount of strength. Many an hour of sustaining communion with God did He enjoy; often with prayer and meditation He refreshed His soul when the toil of the day was ended, and, alone with the Father upon the mountains, revived His drooping heart. There He learned the answer to the promise, 'As thy days, so shall thy strength be.'

The truths which abide for ever, the love which fills eternity, the order which moves through change, the all-encompassing perfection which embraces and reconciles earth's imperfections, poured in the solitude their full stream into His heart; and he went back to life, restored, able to live above its power to crush the imaginative life or to chill the Divine emotions.

So it was that, when the fury of the storm fell upon Him, and when He proved the utter vanity of trust in human friends, His heart turned wistfully towards that Presence which never failed to cheer Him, and which alone, in the face of coming agony, could give Him strength for its endurance.

The trained soul knows itself not alone. It knows a perpetual, invisible companionship. It has a speech which it cannot translate to its neighbor. In the glare of the day, in the hum of the crowd, in the silent watches of the night, it talks with the Unseen, it has converse with its Friend. Its past, its present, its future; its trials, temptations, defeats; its joys, its griefs, all enter into that constant colloquy.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha

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