No Matter How Busy Your Life Is, There Is Only One Necessary Thing

I blink and it is Easter. I blink again and it is fall. Time passes so quickly, quicker by the year perhaps. What happened to the time? Where did it disappear?

It seems the older I get the more I realize how much the noise around me, the bluster of external demands and distractions, the quake of everything that seems so critical, keeps me far from my true self, the quiet place where just He and I exist.

When I am not here, how I miss this place. I miss the stillness. I miss the center of me that grows strong in His presence. I miss His delight. I miss peace.

It is only in this place where I come home, only in the quiet that I can hear Him whisper. Only.

It is this “Only” that grounds me as the seasons pass, gives me purpose for the time measured out to me. This “Only” cultivates a beautiful garden where my true self is safe. Where this authentic being in me comes alive and discovers her true essence as designed by her Creator. Where passion and purpose are whispered and sought after as the finest secret to discover.

The older I get the more I realize, as Henri Nouwen beautifully portrays, that solitude is “The Only Necessary Thing.” He suggests,

“It is clear that we are usually surrounded by so much inner and outer noise that it is hard to truly hear our God when God is speaking to us… A spiritual life requires discipline because we need to learn to listen to God… That is true prayer: being all ears for God. The core of all prayer is indeed listening, obediently standing in the presence of God.” [1]

For anyone who has never embarked on this journey within, who has never experienced the peace that time with God in solitude provides, here is how you can make it an only in your life, too.

1.  Schedule a time-out. Look at your schedule and find a 15-20 minute slot at least 3-4 times per week, if not daily. Focus on finding the same or similar time each day. In order to make something a habit, it usually requires beginning intentionally with a schedule. Otherwise the routine rarely gets established and it becomes easy to skip. Be aware of outside demands and seeming crises that will keep you from this place. Prioritize this place. Honor this time.

2.  Just bring yourself. Don’t bring an agenda. Don’t bring a schedule. Just bring yourself. This is not a time for journaling or Bible study. While both are essential tools for spiritual and emotional growth, they are not replacements for solitude. How can we ever learn to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit if we are constantly doing? We must shift from being mere human “doings” and instead focus on becoming human “beings, ” created in the image of God, simply for the purpose of experiencing relationship with God.

3.  Quiet yourself. When you first attempt the practice of solitude, everything in the external world will start to scream louder. All of the demands and stresses of life will try to pull you away. Voices will echo your “to-do” list and offer a myriad of other reasons not to press into this place. Press in anyway.

Practice breathing deeply. Close your eyes and create a quiet visual place in your mind, or find a     peaceful focal point to engage your attention. I love to envision Jesus walking toward me in the distance. With each breath, each moment, I can visualize Him coming closer until in time, He is right before my eyes and I can see nothing else but Him.

4.  Don’t rush off. Simply enjoy being in this place. Be aware of internal distractions. Once the external distractions fade away, the voices of your inner pain begin to clamor for your attention. They speak of your unworthiness, of your shame. They speak of the shadows and fears deep in your soul. They want you to stop. Don’t. Press in deeper. Listen deeper. Continue breathing, allowing these voices to fade into the background.

This moment is the most precious gift you will give yourself today. Enjoy it. Savor it. Soak in every second of this quietness knowing that the rest of the day will come, the busyness, the “doing” will resume. Allow yourself to simply “be” present in this moment.

5.  Say a prayer of gratitude. When ending a time of solitude, finish with a prayer of gratitude. This is simply a prayer thanking God for the gift of solitude and its healing power in your life. Thank Him for reminding you of your spiritual identity, your strength. Surrender your will and motivations for this day and simply accept the call of the Master to humbly, intentionally become His hands and His feet to the world.

Is time vanishing before your eyes? Do the noises and distractions of the day keep you preoccupied? Are you so busy that you have forgotten how to make time to take care of you? Begin to set aside time for solitude. It will benefit every other thing you will attend to today.

If solitude is already a practice in your life:

  • How do you fit solitude into your schedule?
  • What are the most meaningful practices in your life that keep you connected with God?
  • What are some of your favorite memories with God in solitude?
  • What impact has time away with God had on your life?

I’d love to hear from you!

Whatever time of day, whatever our favorite rituals, we will never find more peace, more power, more emotional abundance, than when we learn to simply stand quietly and obediently in the presence of God. Only then will we discover that solitude is truly the “only necessary thing!”




[1] Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life, (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 2009)p 82.