Passage: Mark 1:32-39; Isaiah 50:4-6
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
To flourish this winter, we will need to practice solitude, which Jesus modeled in his own life. Solitude is important, ultimately, because it helps us remember the God to whom we’re responsible, and who we are before him.
In Mark 1:32-39, we first see Jesus’ need for solitude. After a full day of performing healings and casting out demons, Jesus’ fame grew and by the next morning, “everyone was looking for him” (1:37). Jesus made it his priority, however, to be alone with God, and having “departed” early, he “went out to a desolate place and there he prayed” (1:35). Jesus needed solitude to remember who he was responsible to, in the midst of the great tasks he was responsible for. For the same reasons, we need solitude today. Without regular times of solitude before God, we are likely to live “disintegrated lives,” anxiously living to project a mere “shadow self”—the image of how we hope others see us.
The passage also shows that the practice of solitude was intentional and costly for Jesus. It involved waking up early “while it was still dark” (1:35) and it involved physically “departing” and going out to a “desolate place” (1:35). Likewise, for us today, pursuing solitude will require intentional, consistent, and costly decisions, and yet such decisions are necessary if we want to safeguard an environment where intimacy with God develops—one marked by time, trust, and communication.
Finally, the passage shows the result of solitude in Jesus’ life. Practicing solitude didn’t lead Jesus into a self-absorbed, inward-focused life, but outward towards others, in sacrificial acts of love. Following his time of solitude, Jesus, “moved with pity” heals a leper, resulting in the leper’s freedom but in Jesus’ being driven back out into a desolate place once more because of his rising fame (1:41-42)—an act of exchange foreshadowing the much greater exchange he would later perform. Solitude never terminates on ourselves, because in solitude we can clearly listen to the God who not only reminds us of who we are before him, but who sends us out into the world he loves.
- The Need for Solitude (1:32-39)
- The Practice of Solitude (1:35)
- The Result of Solitude (1:40-41)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage (Isaiah 50:4-6; Mark 1:32-39)
The Need for Solitude (1:32-39)
Q) Reread Mark 1:32-34. What was Jesus doing the night before he got alone to be with God? What would you have chosen to do after a night like this? Why, in this context, might Jesus’ choice of solitude be a surprising decision?
Q) Reread Mark 1:35-37. Simon and those searching for Jesus sought to remind Jesus of his mounting responsibilities when they said, “everyone is looking for you.” In your own life, has an awareness of your responsibilities tended to draw you into solitude with God, or push you away from solitude with God? Why?
Q) What are some of the obstacles for you to desiring solitude with God? In the moment, what do you find yourself wanting more than communion with God in solitude? Do you notice any patterns in your life in this area?
Q) Reread Mark 1:37-38. How do you see solitude leading to a clarity of calling in Jesus’ life, and to decisiveness in pursuing it? What do you think Jesus might have prayed about early that AM, that led to such clarity and decisiveness?
Q) What kind of person do you tend to become when you lack solitude in your life?
Q) What do you imagine would be some characteristics of a local church where the majority of its members regularly practice solitude? What do you imagine would be some characteristics of a local church where the majority of its members don’t practice solitude?
The Practice of Solitude (1:35)
Q) Reread Mark 1:35. What were some of the concrete steps Jesus took to practice solitude? What did it cost him?
Q) What intentional steps do you need to take this next week to find a time(s) to practice solitude? When, where, and how would you do it? As concretely as possible, describe what you think the “cost” would be of taking these steps (e.g. less sleep, saying no to another opportunity, etc).
Q) The Bible describes three “enemies” who conspire together against our holiness—the world, the flesh, and the devil:
- The flesh is our own personal bent to pursue our own desires and serve ourselves rather than God
- The world is the values, systems, and structures of a wider culture that doesn’t value God
- The devil is the supernatural evil being who tempts and entices us to serve our flesh, and live by the values of the world
Using this framework, how do you see your flesh conspiring against your pursuit of God in solitude? The world? The devil?
Q) Can you think of an example of a Christian you know who regularly practices solitude? What does it look like concretely for them, and what can you learn from them?
The Result of Solitude (1:40-41)
Q) Reread Mark 1:39-41. How do you think Jesus’ communion with God in solitude spurred him into the compassionate acts that followed? What truths might Jesus have been reminded of or strengthened in, during his solitude, that caused him to be “sent back out” in love?
Q) How might other people in our lives—spouse, kids, coworkers, neighbors—benefit if we regularly practiced solitude?
Q) TAKING A NEXT STEP: If your small group wants to commit to trying a regular practice of solitude, give them some time at the end of (or during) the night itself to plan for it. Have members pull out their calendars or phones, and block out either:
- A one-hour period of solitude sometime in the next two weeks, and/or
- A recurring time for solitude (e.g. at least every other week), between now and the New Year
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and
outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.