What could you do in the next 15 minutes to extend your life by three years? Researchers suggest light exercise. The World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity a week, or 30 minutes a day. Such activity is of course very beneficial.
But now we know that even half that amount of exercise can extend our lives. If you spent 15 minutes today exercising, you would drop your mortality rate by 14%, cancer mortality by 10%, and cardiovascular disease by 20%. Over 400,000 people participated in the medical screening program which produced these findings.
Now that we know how to live longer, let’s shift gears. What could you do in the next 15 minutes to live better? I’d like to suggest solitude.
Jesus encouraged us to “go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6). He repeatedly spent time alone with his Father (cf. Mark 1:35; 6:46). He would have agreed with Father Bernardo Olivera: “Only in silence is heard the beating of the heart of God.”
How do we hear his heart? First, make a quiet place. Turn off everything which would distract you. Second, remind yourself that your Lord is with you in this moment. Jesus promised that he would never leave you or forsake you (Matthew 28:20). Claim his presence as you give these minutes to him.
Third, focus your thoughts on him: “Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2). Envision God on his throne (Isaiah 6:1-8; Revelation 4). Spend a moment praising him for his greatness and thanking him for his goodness to you.
Fourth, invite his Spirit to speak to your spirit. Open your mind to his voice. Listen as thoughts come to you from God’s word and world. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern his words and impulses. Yield yourself to his presence and direction.
Just a few minutes alone with the God of the universe can be life-transforming. Theologian Paul Tillich suggested that “language has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.” Lord Byron was right: solitude can be that place “where we are least alone.”
When last was your life changed by an encounter with the voice of God?