A few months ago, I wrote up a brief description for some colleagues with suggestions on how to spend a day alone with God. I'm currently working on the Advent series, and the topic has come up again, so I thought it might be handy to go ahead and have this posted:
When we mention solitude and attempt to commit ourselves to it, a push/pull phenomenon almost always comes into play. We long for time alone with God, but we also resist it at multiple levels. That resistance most often surfaces in the form of thinking that we have too much to do to take a day away, but the real issue(s) are probably deeper than that. Solitude opens up the space for God to deal with things at some of those other levels which we are normally very good at ignoring.
As for details on how to go about this and what to do, please feel free to do it in a way that suits you and your life with your family. The point is to do it, not to do it perfectly.
For example, some people may be able to take a full 24 hour period and get away. Normally, for my wife and me, our day in solitude ends up being the length of a work day so that we can be back home with the kiddos for the evening. Find the length of time that works best for you (as long as it is some actual length of time).
As for the arrangement and content of the day, I would encourage you simply to try not to fill it with much. You’ll want to unplug from technology and be reasonably inaccessible. I find that I can’t spend days like this in my own house, but my wife can. It’s fine to have something to read–certainly some scripture and perhaps one other book, but even these can be twisted into tools we use to avoid God in solitude rather than encounter him, so make use of them as you wish, but without using them to cram full the space in the day that you have opened up for you and God. Journaling is good if it is a habit for you, or even if it feels inviting to you. But the bottom line is that there are no demands on you for this day–just be with God.
You might come away from a day like this encouraged and refreshed, or you might feel plain bored. Don’t be concerned with whether you “did” it well or poorly...the issue is more about having a day in which we let everything else go in order to be with our Friend. You may find it helpful to keep in mind the simple question, “What would God and I like to do together today?”
For years, I wanted to have days like this, but virtually never took them. I felt like they were a luxury and the demands of a life in ministry were too much for me to afford them. In that regard, I was badly educated, or–more likely–self-deceived. Now I view them as an indispensable part of the kind of life and ministry I want to have.