Solitude and Community
Open Your Bible
Psalm 46:10, Lamentations 3:25-28, Mark 6:30-32, Matthew 11:25-30, Hebrews 10:23-25, Psalm 133:1, Matthew 18:20, Romans 12:4-5, Romans 12:15-19
By Caleb Faires
It is 3:00 AM. It’s hard to recall the last time I got a full night’s sleep. Around 1:00 AM, I awoke in a panic, my heart pounding. I am afraid. “It is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD” (Lamentations 3:26), but in times of deep trouble, in seasons of fear and stress, it is not easy to wait quietly. It takes a supernatural strength.
Over the last few years, my family has been rattled and strained, pushed to the very verge of breaking. I could bear it with greater ease if it were an enemy from the outside threatening us, but it is not. We are shaken from the inside. At 3:00 AM, the world is either the dark valley of the shadow, or it is a hopeful quiet as dawn approaches. Sometimes it is both.
Nine years ago, we decided to adopt two boys. I knew it would bring many challenges, but I also expected it would be a path of continual improvement, and that at the end of a short season of toil and trauma and struggle, our family would find its rhythm, and we would be normal. Although I “hold fast to the confession” of our hope (Hebrews 4:14), my rosy dream has since been shattered again and again. The impact of trauma, the waywardness of a son I love, and my own sins continually sow the seeds of upheaval.
Psalm 133 says, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” (v.1). But what happens when they do not? What happens when sin produces not only disruption, but bone-deep heartache, distress, and even fear?
I have been blessed to be surrounded by many dear friends who are willing to weep with me and pray with me, rather than try to fix everything and answer every question. In both solitude and in community, it is tempting to think that the proper response to sorrow is to put in our two cents, as if those who grieve need us. Pride and ambition can disguise themselves as false shepherds.
But they are hired hands, serving their own ends rather than those of the flock. There is only one true Shepherd. There is only one Comforter. He beckons us to “come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while… Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mark 6:31, Matthew 11:28). In the turmoil of circumstances, He is the quiet. He is even our joy.
I would like to have endless hours of solitude to sort through everything on my own. But morning comes, and the household awakes; many people are coming and going. Each day offers its fair share of troubles, and it is hard to know if I’m facing them well. If I see someone I love walking in rebellion, can I do anything but grieve? Grieving and praying are both much easier in those times of quiet and solitude. But I need to gather with others as well; though it is difficult to open up and bring the painful truths to light with others, it is good.
I don’t have answers. All too often, I’m not sure of what I long for more: fellowship or seclusion. I believe I am called to simply lean in to the sorrow, and wait for Him. But I know this: two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9; Matthew 18:20), and I often need that extra hand to lift me up when I am stumbling. Whether in community or in solitude, the Comforter comes.
Written by Caleb Faires