If I asked you to name a famous battle from history’s greatest military campaigns, I am confident you would be able to list quite a few. Gettysburg, Normandy, Waterloo, Verdun. If, however, I asked you to name famous tactical retreats, you may pause to remember one or two. And yet, nearly every victorious war consists of not just triumphant battles but also successful retreats. If commanders do not learn when and how to order retreats, they soon will find themselves without a force to win triumphant battles, and the war will be lost.
We do not think of retreat as a critical element to military leadership, yet it is. Similarly, we can forget that retreat is a critical element in our spiritual lives. Spiritual retreats are a part of Christian discipleship. We can focus on experiencing spiritual victories over the world and the flesh while forgetting that the victories often are enabled by the seasons of preparation in spiritual retreats. Can we have one without the other? Not Jesus.
Before Jesus preached one sermon, before he performed one miracle, before he even proclaimed the good news of salvation, he went on a retreat. Matthew 4, Mark 1, and Luke 4 each tell of how Jesus prefaced his ministry with an extended retreat of forty days in the wilderness. Furthermore, throughout his ministry, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16) If Jesus needed it, surely we do too.
In Christian retreats, we retreat from the stresses of normal life, shaking up our routine and forcing us to pay deeper attention. We retreat inwardly for introspection, asking ourselves important and sometimes hard questions.
We retreat to listen to the voice of God, letting it whisper truths into our hearts. These retreats provide a respite from current spiritual struggles, reveal to us deeper spiritual adversaries, and hone us for future spiritual battles.
The summer can be an ideal time to break from routine and take a few days of spiritual retreat. It can be an extended time to read a larger portion of the Bible, a practice of solitude, or a time of fasting and praying. Spiritual retreats can be many things. Our youth and children will go on a retreat to Passport Camp this month. They will learn more about Christ, they will have the opportunity to practice their faith, and they will be challenged to make deeper commitments in their discipleship. They will enjoy a week of
introspection, exploration, service, play, and a rest from the stresses of their normal lives.
We as a church support our children and youth in taking this time away in spiritual retreat. Most tangibly, we helped raise funds through their fundraiser last month, and we commit to praying for them as they go on retreat. How can we support every person at Mount Hermon to take regular spiritual retreats? One way is to model it in our own lives. Take time this summer to retreat to your Lord.