Jesus often went to “lonely places” to pray. The scriptures also say that he dwelled in lonely places, on the outskirts of town because He could no longer enter into a town without them being unaware of His presence. Surely, it is the lonely places where God abides.
The lonely place is a phrase that is both literal and figurative. It describes our “secret closet,” that place where we go to fellowship with God and mediate on His goodness. It also describes the inner sanctuary that is our heart. However, the lonely place most eloquently describes the lonely road that we must travel in our Christian walk with God.
In his letter to the Corinthians Paul asserted that we should, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate.” (2 Cor. 6:17) Upon closer inspection this command does not only refer to the Christian’s separation from the world but it also refers to our personal life of dedication in the service of the Lord.
Our lives are akin to a journey. We are born, grow old and die, making familial and friendship connections along the way. However, our existence is for a greater purpose than this. It is in the human make-up to desire the company of others. Even God said that it is not good for man to be alone. In our spiritual lives believers find power in the midst of the congregation and fellowship with like-minded believers. Yet we are also destined to travel the road, the early Disciples of Christ referred to as The Way, alone. It is an oxymoron of sorts but nevertheless, it is true.
My mother and I are very close; she is the second of my two best friends – my very best friend is God Himself. Love alone does not encompass all that I feel for my mother. We do almost everything together. Shop, pray, sing, laugh, cry and yes, even sometimes have disagreements. We are both followers of Christ and yet we have two very distinct relationships with Him. Why is this?
No two believers are alike and so no two believers will enjoy the same type of relationship with our Savior. We do not possess a cookie-cutter salvation. God has a tailor-made purpose for each of His children to fulfill. We were formed, chosen and called according to His will; my friends, one size does not fit all. God has a purpose for each of us that is fitted for our specific temperament, capabilities and capacity for growth in faith and dedication. He knows us to the inner-most depths of our hearts like no other, not even ourselves.
Remember Peter? He is that disciple that loved Jesus with a fierce love. He was a one-God man and held no one in higher esteem and affection than Jesus Christ. Peter was sure that he would never leave Christ but, Jesus told him something that exemplified His divine perception. Jesus revealed the terrible truth that Peter, like his fellow disciples, would forsake Christ!
Jesus Christ did not condemn Peter in His disclosure of this truth. It was simply a fact that had to be revealed to the hopeful but vastly naïve man. Jesus knew Peter’s desire to love Him fully was genuine but He also knew Peter’s personal limitations and capabilities. He knew that ultimately Peter’s “betrayal” would lead to his spiritual growth and dedication and too, it would cause him to strengthen his fellow brothers in Christ! But before Peter could obtain that strength, he would first have to find that “lonely place”.
After the rooster crowed, Peter escaped to a place “outside”. He wept bitterly, and I imagine, in between the gasping heaves of pain and regret he uttered prayers of repentance and pleas for forgiveness. Peter’s lonely place led to his spiritual recovery and inevitable victory! Who did the angel instruct the women to tell of Christ’s resurrection? He said, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter…” (Mark 16:7) God, in His infinite mercy, ushered the newly devoted and strengthened disciple back into the fold and into His arms.
We can’t be afraid of or ashamed of our lonely places. Rather we must do as Jesus did and seek them out. We too must go outside the gates! The gates of the church house and the gates of our homes and seek a personal relationship with the God of our salvation. Corporate worship is an intricate part of this Christian walk and family worship helps to strengthen the family unit but in the end, we must walk alone for when we kneel before the throne of God, we will surely be alone.
Walking alone means that there will be times in our lives when all will forsake us. So as our Christ was forsaken, we too must be forsaken. So as Christ was mocked and ridiculed, we too will be scorned and criticized. The arm of the flesh will fail us every time.
Whether that arm belongs to a fellow believer or a family member, we will be forsaken. Some believers unwisely place more value in what their Church family or family members think and believe than they do in the Word of God and what the Lord commands.
It behooves us to recognize the difference between the congregational church and the members of the body of Christ. “Let the wheat and the tare grow together” is what Jesus warned. Not all “believers” believe or has received the sanctifying presence of the Holy Ghost. Those are they who will say, “It doesn’t take all of that to follow God”; “You’re too religious”; or “You pray too much!”
Family members may be offended by our desire to spend time alone, separate from the family unit or in the frequency of our church attendance. They may ask, “Didn’t you go to service Sunday? Why do you have to go back to church again?” They may question our desire to study our bible more often than the regularly scheduled bible study at church. Remember how Jesus’s own brothers mocked him? They did not understand His devotion to the Father, His need to heal the sick, deliver the bound or to fulfill the purpose for which He was born.
The lonely place: it’s where we find God and where He dwells and imparts knowledge and wisdom to those who seek Him out. Find your lonely place beloved and surely you will find God waiting there.
“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13) and again, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20)
This Christian journey only begins at the altar of repentance beloved. We must press forward, continually seeking the prize for that high-calling which is in Christ Jesus.