LESSON 8—I Know When to Stay in Seclusion
My mother–in-law loved rainy days. She’d snuggle up on the couch with a blanket and announce, “It’s a great day for staying in!” She knew the joy of seclusion.
Some of us can take seclusion to an extreme. Some of us prefer never to leave the house. In fact, some days I don’t even quite make it to the mailbox. The most I get of the “great outdoors” is peaking out my window on my way back from the coffee pot. It’s a writer’s life. And it makes me happy. On certain days. Other days feel like the house is a prison. I itch to get out in the fresh air and sunshine. I want to see the world and live in it.
When his [Zechariah’s] time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion (Luke 1:23, explanation added).
Scripture doesn’t tell us why Elizabeth remained in seclusion for five months. It’s doubtful she was embarrassed about being pregnant because Luke 1:25 says pregnancy took away her disgrace.
As an older woman, perhaps Elizabeth went into seclusion similarly to the way modern doctors prescribe bed rest for women who have delicate pregnancies. Perhaps Elizabeth spent the first five months being extra careful not to overdo or work too hard or get too excited. After the fifth month, perhaps Elizabeth felt confident that the baby was strong and only then got out of bed and out of seclusion.
Scripture tells us that Elizabeth was righteous in God’s sight. Despite her seclusion, because of her love for God and her gratitude for his blessing, she would have spent much of her time in seclusion praising and worshipping God.
When Elizabeth had been pregnant for sixth months, her relative Mary came to be with her. Perhaps Mary helped around the house; letting Elizabeth get extra rest. Or maybe Mary’s presence encouraged Elizabeth to get out and about. For whatever reasons, ultimately Elizabeth came out of seclusion.
There are different reasons for seclusion in our lives. Some of them are good reasons; some not so good. I like to think that locking myself inside my office from time to time to write is a good reason for seclusion. Another good reason for seclusion is to keep your germs to yourself when you’re sick, both to allow rest to recover and to protect the health of others.
Not so good reasons for seclusion would include trying to escape life and avoiding situations or people you need to face. Those are ways to procrastinate or cheat on what life has for us. God doesn’t want us to go there.
Another good kind of seclusion is spending time with God. As Jesus told us,
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).
Good seclusion includes time alone with God. Seclusion with God is little moments of heaven on earth with Him. Devotions. Prayer time. Scripture reading and meditation. Walks in nature.
Ponderings in the dark. Spiritual seclusion is seclusion from distraction; never seclusion from God.
Whether Elizabeth went into seclusion for her health, for the health of her unborn baby or to focus her attention on the gift God had given her, she went into seclusion for a time and then came out of it, prepared and ready for the next step in God’s plan.
If Elizabeth were here she would say this was her story. She knew when to go into seclusion and when to come out of it.
When we recognize the need for private time with God but don’t go into seclusion to get away from people or responsibilities, we understand how God might see His women of faith. We can respond:
I am like Elizabeth.
For Thought and Discussion
*Think of a time when you have gone into self-imposed seclusion. What was the reason? How did you get through your time of seclusion? How did you get back into life?
*Think of someone else you know who went into seclusion. Was it for a healthy reason or were they escaping reality? How was that resolved?
*Do you assure daily time in seclusion with Jesus? What does your time with Jesus look like? What would you like to do more of or do better or differently? If you don’t spend time daily with Jesus, what’s stopping you?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for time alone with you. Thank you that you are always available to be with us. Please remind us, Holy Spirit, that even when we are away from other people, you are still with us. Remind us moment-by-moment that we can seclude ourselves away and rest in your presence. Amen.