“Solitude is not found so much by looking outside the boundaries of your dwelling as by staying within them. Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present; and unless you look for it in the present, you will never find it.”
– Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas, 262
Many years ago a friend of mine whose inner being was tormented and in turmoil decided to go alone to a cabin in the north woods and spend time with God. He went to a very isolated area in Canada. The setting was pristine and beautiful. He lasted a couple of days before he came home. He had brought all his inner agitation plus his physical brain with him and couldn’t handle it.
A change of geographical location will not heal the troubled heart. The idea that “If I could only be elsewhere, then I’d be better” is a delusion. This is good news. If our inner well-being was a condition of our outer physical space then we would remain forever in bondage unless we travel.
One’s inner well-being is not a function of one’s physical environment or one’s life circumstances. In solitude, where you are right now, God can “deepen the present.” Jean-Pierre de Caussade, in his classic book The Sacrament of the Present Moment, writes: “Divine action cleanses the universe, pervading and flowing over all creatures. Wherever they are it pursues them. It precedes them, accompanies them, follows them. We have only to allow ourselves to be borne along on its tide.” (3)
The apostle Paul wrote: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Phil. 4:11-12) Inner peace is not circumstantial.
(The marketing strategies of our world tell us otherwise.)
The reason is: God is now with you. If you are a Jesus-follower, Christ, the hope of glory, is within you. And Christ-in-you is not now in a panic room. He is not agitated. He is not freaking out. His peace is not circumstantial.
In John 14:27 Jesus instructs his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” How do we access the peace of Christ? Jesus says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing.”
As we abide in Christ we gain his peace. This world’s quasi-pseudo “peace” is conditional on external circumstances. The peace that calms the agitated seas of our hearts is conditional on connectedness to Christ. That is fully available now. In the
present moment. “It’s just You and me here now; only You and me here now.”
In His presence.
You won’t need to look for it anywhere else.