Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
By this time in His life Jesus seems to have learned* that desolate places can be great conduits for nearness to God. Though I cannot prove this is the case, I think Christ might have learned this during His time of temptation in the wilderness. The desolate places and difficult times in our lives can be extremely effective at drawing us nearer to God... if we let them. If we humble ourselves under God's hand like Job who said, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. May the name of the LORD be praised," then these difficult times in our lives can actually become times of sweet fellowship with our Father (Job 1:21).
These difficult and desolate times test our resolve to persevere in service to God. When everyone else is driven away from us because of our circumstances, when everyone is proven incapable of soothing or comforting us, then only one person remains- our Heavenly Father. Christians who draw near to Him in these times, and who "trust in the LORD with all their heart and lean not on their own understanding" often enjoy new levels of relational intimacy with the Father because of it (Proverbs 3:5). Though these times are often low points in our earthly lives, they can become high points in our heavenly relationship. I have found that I often come back again and again to these high points for continued strength and encouragement. It is possible that this is exactly what we see Jesus doing here. Perhaps, by retreating to a desolate area again He is reminding Himself of the intimacy with God and the sustaining hand He felt during His temptation in the wilderness. Perhaps His time in the wilderness taught Him that lonely places can often be the best places to pray.
So let me ask you, what difficult test or desolate situation are you going through in your life right now? Continue to trust God in the midst of it! Don't lean on your own understanding. Draw near to the Father and He will draw near to you (James 4:8). Remember that His timing is not our timing, and His ways are not our ways (II Peter 3:8 & Isaiah 55:8-9). So be patient and above all have faith. Take a moment to reflect on and return to some of the high points in your relationship with the Lord. How many of them took place in the midst of difficult and desolate circumstances?
For further reading...
- Check out the book of Job. In the end God brings his nearness but not necessarily an explanation.
*Because Jesus was 100% human as well as 100% God, it is appropriate for us to speak of Him learning things as awkward as that may seem. C.f. Luke 2:52.