Getting Away with God


Solitude with God isn’t casual time off. It’s deep, prayerful immersion in the press of God’s power that renders us fit to return to people and meaningfully serve.

Matthew 26:36-46

We know it as Gethsemane—the place where Jesus pulled away from chaos to spend His last night alone with His Father. Stepping deeper inside the garden, however, we learn more of why He chose this spot. And more of what happened there. Was it just some praying? Just some sleeping? Just some time alone from life’s pressures before He arose to die? No; instead, we find in Gethsemane a restoration path for every moment of our own lives.

Christ came to the Garden not alone, but with friends—11 of His 12 disciples. He was often surrounded by people. So should it surprise us that the night before He was crucified—for our sins—Jesus arrived at Gethsemane with 11 loved ones following along?  

Does this sound like your life? Always surrounded by others? Rarely any time for yourself? Encumbered by people who love you but don’t always support or help you when you need it most? Then look for light and direction in Christ’s last beautiful hours of solitude in a holy garden.

With His disciples, the Lord withdrew to Gethsemane, a place whose Hebrew name means a mill or press (similar to a wine press) where oil was extracted from olives. Here, at the foot of the Mount of Olives, Jesus broke away from the group with His three closest friends—Peter, James, and John—and described to them His deepest feelings: “My soul is crushed” (Matt. 26:38 nlt).

In this place where olives are pressed for their life-sustaining oil, Christ “began his passion,” wrote Matthew Henry. “There it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and crush him, that fresh oil might flow to all believers from him, that we might partake of the root and fatness of that good Olive.”

Solitude, you see, “is more a state of mind and heart than it is a place,” according to author Richard Foster. Certainly, getting away to relax is wonderful. Solitude with God, however, isn’t casual time off. It’s deep, prayerful immersion in the press of God’s power that renders us fit to return to people and meaningfully serve. In solitude, Foster says in his Celebration of Discipline, “we must go away from people so that we can be truly present when we are with people.”

Jesus set this pattern. After times of solitude, what did He do? He launched His ministry (Matt. 4:1-11, 17). He walked on water (14:22-27). He selected His disciples (Luke 6:12-19). He died for our sins.   

We may yearn for easy expressions of solitude—for a spiritual reason to drop everything and take a week off. Who doesn’t crave that from time to time? But as God’s children, we all need solitude with God, the kind that reshapes the soul and readies us, like our Christ, to serve.


—Patricia Raybon

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