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The Upside of a Season of Solitude

We were sick as a society and needed a season of solitude to get better – so here we are quarantining. But what if this remedy was not only for our bodies, but for our spirits as well? Remember back to when we used to go to restaurants? What does it say when you go into a restaurant and the coup…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

We were sick as a society and needed a season of solitude to get better – so here we are quarantining. But what if this remedy was not only for our bodies, but for our spirits as well?

Remember back to when we used to go to restaurants? What does it say when you go into a restaurant and the couples who are seated there are looking at their phones instead of one another?

What does it mean when studies show empathy rates declining by 40% in young people? What are we to think about our society when our children grow up afflicted by anxiety?

We as a nation were headed in a bad direction and couldn’t self-regulate out of our addiction to noise. As horrible as this season is, perhaps there is an upside to solitude.

I remember when I was nine years-old and got in big trouble. The punishment was that I was confined to my room for multiple days. I hated it! I remember not really understanding the purpose of that time.

If we’re going to be alone, we need to understand how to do it well. And that begins by discovering its purpose. It begins by seeking God for direction.

The irony is that we can be in solitude, but our minds can still be crowded, noisy places. What if God were whispering to you, but his voice was being drowned out by all the noise? Get rid of the static and perhaps you might begin to hear from him again.

Jesus lived in a noisy world and frequently sought the quiet of solitude to talk to his father. I begin that process by journaling. I do a “mind-dump” of all that is running through my brain. And then I begin to dialogue with God about it.

Often there is a relational issue where I messed up and need to confess. Being restored in my relationship with God begins with restoring my personal relationships.

This poem by John O’Donohue speaks to the upside of solitude.


For an Exile

This country is cold to your voice.

It is still a place without echoes.

Nothing of yours has happened here.

No one knows you,

The language slows you,

The thick accent smothers your presence.


Though your work here is hard,

It brings relief, helps your mind

In returning to the small

Bounties of your absence.


Evening is without protection;

Your room waits,

Ready to take you

Back like some convict

Who is afraid

Of the life outside.


The things you brought from home

Look back at you; out of place here

They take on a lonely power.


Now is the time to hold faithful

To your dream, to understand

That this is an interim time

Full of awkward disconnection.


Gradually you will come to find

Your way to friends who will open

Doors into a new belonging.

Your heart will brighten

With new discovery,

Your presence will unclench

And find ease,

Letting your substance

And promise be seen.


Slowly a new world will open for you.

The eyes of your heart, refined

By this desert time, will be free

To see and celebrate the new life

For which you sacrificed everything.


This time of sheltering-in-place doesn’t have to look like a confusing time of being disciplined. Use it well. Turn off the TV and the computer. Pull out your journal. Talk to God and wait for his response. Consider the notion that this season holds a gift for you. Consider the possibility that your spirit has been starving and can find what it needs in this quiet place you find yourself. 


Comments (10)

  • This is really good. I have been thinking the same thing and praying that God would use this time to bring us all back to the place where we seek His voice and presence above all the other voices and distractions!

  • Amen. My thoughts mirror yours. Our world and planet needs this reminder. I’m out on the front lines and have been able to serve because I listen and look and am able to offer joy, compassion and empathy. While leaning into Him.

  • Excellent post, Seth. We are in desperate need of a “reset” and your post gives some timely direction. Thanks!

  • Hi Seth. Prayed for you just now while typing. Over a year ago I unplugged 100% from social media because of the cacophony of angry, toxic, caustic and often seducing comments which were becoming far too frequent. Noise is a narcotic just as strong as the alcohol was as a later, errant (and sinful) path in my life. That “crisis of the spirit” was the consequence of having pain seemingly too raw and damning to manage without self-medication. Thankfully that wrecking ball to my life has been over for an extended season and while still in all humanity’s fight in other ways the battle for substance sobriety is over for good. I’m so grateful. Elijah illustrates the power of God’s “still small voice” which is not translated well from the original Hebrew. My dear ???? Israeli friend, consulting client and ancient language scholar Gill Illowitch (CEO of http://www.compedia.com) has told me the actual passage translation is “a voice from outside…a quiet dimension…the “other” place” which is so powerful. You’ve led a storied life in ministry and forged new paths for thousands. Let’s find time to see each other soon when viral pandemics are yesterday’s news. Love you my brother.

  • I’m grateful for your raw and honest sharing, Butch. And I’m grateful for your friendship! The best is yet to come.

  • The only problem I see now I just more and more people staring at screens in the “Zoom” days. It’s all good for the “break” of programs and busyness, but I hope that it can be replaced with true self-focus with the Lord without a screen.

    • Yes John, I think the Lord will allow us to feel the consequences of our choices. A life of distraction is thin gruel for the soul.

  • I’m really glad you’re blogging so much during this. It’s so helpful and encouraging to us all. Thank you.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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