Creating a Space for Stillness {Book Club}

I’m a Nebraska farm girl so I know the importance of rain. Soil with the right amount of moisture creates the perfect environment for seeds to sprout and grow and flourish.

Most of the time I let my soul experience drought. It’s easier to just keep pushing, to keep pouring out, instead of pouring nourishment back in.

I need help. What about you?

Insert the discipline of solitude.

In Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton said, “In solitude we allow God to help us.”

Barton describes a spiritual retreat where her group practiced solitude and silence. Even at their lunch time, when they all gathered for a communal meal, there was no talking. This opened up spaces in Barton’s heart and revealed several of the things she was needing to address with the Father.

I thought this was beautiful. I’m naturally introverted and don’t mind time alone, but I try to fill that space with something: reading a book and pondering it, listening to music, watching a show, working on my endless to-do list. Even when I might be sitting quietly, my mind is going a million miles an hour, going back over a conversation the day before or worrying over a possible problem that may or may not come to pass.

Solitude helps guide us into stillness. In the stillness we know and trust that only the Father can meet our needs, as He did for the Israelites. As they faced the Red Sea before them and the Egyptians coming up behind them, Moses reminded the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm” (Exodus 14:13-14).

Barton said, “One of the fundamental purposes of solitude is to give us a concrete way of entering into such stillness, so that God can come in and do what only God can do. For the most part, I’m not sure we human beings are capable of being still and letting God fight for us without a discipline to help us do it. This is a very deep kind of rest indeed”.

So how do we practice the discipline of solitude? Many of us live in places where the noise never stops and it can be hard to leave our responsibilities behind to get away. It might take some creativity and definitely a lot of intentionality (hence why it is a discipline). Here are a few of the recommendations that Barton gives:

  • Settle into a comfortable position in your body and sit quietly for a few moments, breathing deeply, becoming aware of God’s presence with you and your desire to be present with God.
  • Notice what is true about you these days; don’t rush to make anything happen.
  • Don’t try to do anything with what you are knowing except to be with it.
  • Feel the difference between trying to fight it and letting God fight for you. What does it mean for you to be still and let God fight for you in this particular area?

I appreciated these prompts for how to direct my thoughts in solitude. I can get so distracted and sidetracked, and then feel frustrated because I come away feeling overwhelmed instead of experiencing deep rest. I have also found I need plenty of time to enter a time of solitude and let my heart and mind and body adjust and detox from the noise that I’m used to. If I try to rush too fast, it becomes about getting something out of the time rather than allowing God to reveal and speak.

What has been your experience with the practice of solitude? How have you made this a rhythm of your life, or how would you like to? Do you have any creative ways to practice solitude that work well in your context? Let’s share together in the comments!

Here’s the reading plan for the rest of the book!

March 19: Chapter 3

March 26: Chapter 4

April 2: Chapter 5

April 9: Chapter 6

April 16: Chapter 7

April 23: Chapter 8

April 30: Chapter 9 and Appendices

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


    1. Jodie March 11, 2019

      Thanks so much for sharing, Beth. Love what you’ve written about solitude!

  1. Jodie March 11, 2019

    I love this chapter! So much speaks to me about the need for solitude when we are surrounded by excessive noise, and I appreciate the way she guides us with practical steps into God’s presence: to be still and to listen.

    “Because I had space to feel what I was feeling, I could begin acknowledging truth that I had not known how to name before.”

    1. Sarah Hilkemann March 13, 2019

      Space to feel what I am feeling- that is definitely something my heart longs for. Thanks for sharing with us, Jodie!

  2. Rachel Kahindi March 12, 2019

    I also am usually busy, even if it’s just my mind. This point was important to me: Don’t try to do anything with what you are knowing except to be with it. It’s hard to not try to figure it out and solve all the problems. I find Psalms to be a helpful starting point when I’m trying to be still with God. God is always the one doing, saving, providing, rescuing, and solving all the problems. The human author is waiting, depending, trusting, hoping.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann March 13, 2019

      Rachel, I can definitely be quick to analyze so I appreciated this point too!

  3. D March 12, 2019

    This chapter really challenged me.

    “Most of us aren’t’ very good at sitting with longing and desire–our own or someone else’s. It feels tender. It feels vulnerable. It feels out of control. It is a place where one human being cannot fix or fill another, nor can we fix or fill ourselves. It is a place where only God will do.”

    To sit with my soul is to sit in a place of surrender, to really, truly let God do what He will and stop trying to get in the way… this feels so important and rather scary as well. I cling to control and strive to fix everything while avoiding vulnerability. Solitude counters my norm… and that is probably very good.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann March 13, 2019

      D, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! Solitude challenges my norm too- which can feel really uncomfortable but also creates space I need.

  4. Jessica Evans March 13, 2019

    I am excited for this book! It is perfect timing in what I feel God has recently been speaking to me. I relate so much to this line: “The only time when I am not lonely and my longing for union is satisfied is when I am in solitude.” My schedule is full of things that are tempting to find my self worth and identity in. The time I feel the most complete though is those times of solitude with God. I recently went away for a weekend silent retreat (the first time in years) and I realized how challenging it was and how important this discipline is. It brought healing and peace into situations that I normally would be overly busy trying to fix.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann March 13, 2019

      Jessica, that’s so neat that you were able to recently do a retreat, and for the Father’s timing in reading this book!

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