“When he [Elijah] came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert.”

1 Kings 19:3-4

Monday, 5 October 2020

1 Kings 19:3-9

We live in a frenetic world. Even the quiet spaces in our lives are now invaded by technology. Most of us always have a mobile device close at hand. The never-ending stream of information and the demands that are made upon us mean that we often struggle to find moments of solitude in our lives.

Elijah, one of Israel’s greatest prophets, was a busy minister too. Courageously, he stood up to Ahab, a godless king. He worked day and night to restore what the disobedient Ahab had destroyed. Elijah had a great victory over Ahab on Mount Carmel. He organised a duel between the Ahab’s god, Baal, and Israel’s God, Yahweh. Elijah, with God’s help, defeated the prophets of Baal. But after all his work, the miracles and his courage to stand up to Ahab, Elijah loses his nerve and then suffers a severe burnout. He runs for his life as Queen Jezebel wanted to destroy him.

The burnt-out prophet flees into the desert, a place of solitude, where he collapses under a broom tree. An angel comes to his aid and, slowly, restores Elijah. The desert, his place of solitude, leads to healing, restoration and transformation. After spending time in solitude he goes to anoint Elisha for ministry.

The great spiritual writer of last century, Henri Nouwen, writes eloquently of the importance of solitude. He says that without solitude we remain victims to society, that we are entangled in the illusions of the false self.

In The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, Nouwen says: “Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self… Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter – the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.”

In what way are you a victim of society’s frantic pace and thus live entangled in illusions? Do you have a place of solitude in your life? Are you open to the transformation that solitude offers?

Loving God,

You often encountered the great men and women of the Scriptures in solitude. In solitude you invited them to transformation. Help me to find space for solitude in my own life so that I too can be transformed by you.


Fr Russell Pollitt SJ

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ is the Director of the Jesuit Institute and is interested in the impact that communications technology has on society and spirituality. He regularly comments on South African Politics and various issues in the Catholic Church.

director@jesuitinstitute.org.za @rpollittsj
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