Drawing the Line Between Isolation and Solitude

Arby Petel

June 15, 2020

There was a point in my life where I hated being alone. 

Wide awake. Nothing to do. No one to talk to.

I hated these moments the most. 

So I would distract myself by mindlessly scrolling through social media updates I’d seen several times or binge-watching useless videos on YouTube until I fell asleep, just to keep my mind occupied.

It wasn’t because I didn’t want to feel lonely. It was because I was afraid of the conversations I would start having with myself when I was alone.

What if bumagsak na naman ako sa subject na ‘to? Makakagraduate ba ako on time? Bakit ang dali lang para sa kanila? Ang bobo ko naman. Nakakainis.

Sana all may jowa. Bakit kaya walang may gusto sa akin? Well ganon talaga ‘pag panget ka.

Nag-away nanaman sila mama at papa dahil sa pera. Hay, pabigat talaga ako.

Hay nako, ‘di ka kasi nag-iisip kaya tuloy napagalitan ka, wala ka talagang kwenta!

 

Sound familiar? Yeah, ako din.

I hated being alone because I was always reminded of how much I failed as a person and in life. Ang ingay.

You probably have your own version of this voice in your head. Shutting it off has become a daily struggle because of the quarantine.

It doesn’t get any better when you’re on social media either. You want to stay informed with (and even speak into) everything happening out there, but it also gets overwhelming and, many times, toxic. Ang ingay.

So what do you do? Turn off social media. Detox muna.

But here’s the catch: Withdrawing from the noise of social media puts you on a collision course with the voice in your head. It’s like you’re caught on a narrow path between two ditches.

This time of isolation may have led us to ugly realizations and caused us to sink deeper into hopelessness and despair. So far, the only thing that may have been working is distraction.

One more episode of that show you’ve been watching.

One more round of that game you’ve been playing.

One more vlog from that YouTube influencer you’ve been following.

But the reality is, you can’t go on distracting yourself forever. As soon as you have time to think, the voices find their way back.

At that point, you may have to face the reality that distraction is a temporary reprieve, not the ultimate solution.

Is there a better way? Can I safely navigate between the two ditches?

 

Interestingly, while we do our best to not feel or be alone, we see Jesus in the Bible intentionally going out of His way to be alone.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. – Mark 1:35 (NIV)

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. – Mark 6:45,46 (NIV)

At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. – Luke 4:42 (NIV)

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. – Luke 5:16 (NIV)

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. – Luke 6:12 (NIV)

Jesus actually sent people away so He could be alone.

He woke up very early in the morning so He could be alone.

He hid from people so He could be alone.

And what did He do when He was alone? He prayed.

Now hold up, I’m not about to tell you that “kulang ka lang sa prayer” or “mag pray ka lang at mawawala din yan.” 

Prayer is not something magical you do that will make the voices go away.

Jesus’ intentional withdrawal to pray is a picture of solitude—a spiritual discipline of temporarily withdrawing from the noise of the world to hear more clearly from God. Solitude then becomes a kind of isolation—the only kind, really—that is truly noiseless and thus refreshing. Why?

Jesus showed us how to navigate safely between the voices in our heads and the voices outside. He made it a habit of being alone so that He could hear a different voice—the voice of the Father. We can do this, too.

When we read the succeeding verses, we see that after Jesus spent time alone with the Father, He resumed fulfilling the mission God had given Him.

This gives us a hint that Jesus’ time alone with the Father was something that refreshed and recharged Him—a striking difference from what happens to us when we listen to the voices we hear when we’re alone and isolated.

I believe the same thing goes for you and me today.

It’s isolation versus solitude.

The enemy uses the silence that comes with being alone to deceive you into believing . . .

. . . that you are a complete failure;

. . . that your current situation is hopeless and beyond repair;

. . . that you are unwanted and unlovable.

But in solitude, being alone amplifies the voice of the Father whom the Bible describes as:

Rich in forgiveness and grace (Ephesians 1:7,8);

The source of mercy and all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3);

Giver of good gifts (Matthew 7:11); and

Great in love (1 John 3:1).

As you tune in to the voice of the Father, the lies of the enemy start to lose their power. Instead, the loving words of the Father overwhelm the lies of the deceiver. 

Just as Jesus made it a habit of retreating to the presence of the Father, we’re being invited to do the same.

Ultimately, the solution to the ugly voices in our heads is not distraction, but a relationship.

A relationship with the Heavenly Father who unconditionally loves us and desires to speak to us;

A relationship with the Heavenly Father that was severed because of our sin and rebellion;

A relationship with the Heavenly Father that was restored because of what Jesus has done on the cross for us;

A relationship with the Heavenly Father that you can have today.

In fact, we’re more than glad to journey with you in the how. Send us a chat anytime! PM is the key.

 

 

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The Author

Arby Petel

Arby Petel is a full-time staff of Victory Davao. He is a lover of coffee, history, and good company. He hopes to write a book someday.

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