I often smile when I read the Gospel of Mark. He loved the word "immediately." It appears again and again. Mark reminds us that Jesus's life was packed with people and pressure like you and I have never known. But he also records that "in the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there" (Mark 1:35).

Why did he do that? Was He a morning person? Not necessarily. Morning was the only time He could be alone. The next verses say they hunted for Him even then and when they found Him said, "Everyone is looking for You" (1:36-37).

A paraphrase would read "Jesus, You can't stay out here by Yourself. Man, You're needed back here!" but Jesus needed the solitude of that early morning talk with His father to filter things out-and my friends, so do we.

Solitude is good for us. Our natural tendency is to always have people around, always have stuff going on, but let me be candid: I've never learned anything all that significant in a crowd. I love to be with people, but solitude helps filter out the essentials and sift away the nonessentials. Life kind of makes up its mind in solitude.

If the truth were known, some of you live on the ragged edge because you continually deal with people, demands, expectations, children pulling at you, friends, schedules, and plans. You can't remember the last time you spent absolutely alone. . . . I know whereof I speak.

Sometimes it's a motorcycle ride for me. Sometimes it's a long walk. But I'll tell you, every time it happens, it's deliberate. No one has ever said to me, "You need to get alone for a while." No, this is a choice we all have to make.

I can just hear some of you wondering, "What do I do when I'm alone?"

I have found that one of the best uses of my time in solitude is keeping a journal. Webster's defines a journal as "a record of experiences, ideas, or reflections kept regularly for private use."1 I want you to consider keeping one too. You'll find it keeps you from losing the best things you gain in your solitude, and that's what draws you closer to God's heart.

If you will allow me this final thought: You owe it to God, you owe it to yourself, and you owe it to those you love the most to make solitude a deliberate choice in your life. It'll take an adjustment to your schedule, but it will make a meaningful difference in your life.

1. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed. (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1999), "Journal."

Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, "Solitude: A Vital Factor in Growing Closer to God," Insights (January 2000): 1-2. Copyright © 2000 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide