Why Isolation Feels Heavy And Hard

It should catch our attention that less than two full chapters into the Bible, God includes a remarkable and perhaps frightening declaration, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). This declaration comes in stark contrast to every other declaration made by God that is recorded in the preceding verses. At every turn, God is looking at what He has made (by merely speaking, nonetheless) and pronouncing it “good.” Suddenly, here at the apex of His creating, He declares something NOT good. And that thing that catches His attention and commands His concern is man being alone.  

We were made to be relational

This is no surprise if we understand a foundational truth about our origin. We were made, “in the image of God, after His likeness (Genesis 1:26).” God is relational. For eternity past, He has enjoyed perfect, complete relationship within Himself; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit¹. As difficult as the Trinity might be (one God eternally existing as three persons), it is also foundational in our Christian beliefs and solidified in the proclamation of the Apostle’s Creed². We know that our relational need is first and foremost tied to our dependence upon the God who made us. Without that relational need being met, we have no hope. But isn’t it interesting that God’s declaration, “It is not good for man to be alone,” was answered by His creation of another human? It seems it was God’s good intent to make us not only to need our Creator but also to need each other. 

If this is true, it stands to reason that anything in life that threatens that foundational characteristic in which we were made would lead to discomfort and problems. Do you wonder why, in the midst of this season of social distancing and isolation, we see the number of cases of anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses rise? While physical distancing can help to medically protect a population from a deadly disease, truly isolating ourselves from one another has an equally dangerous consequence. It turns our thinking inward and causes us to hear only our voice, or worse, the voice of the enemy (Genesis 3:1-5). There is good cause for the Bible to warn us against intentionally isolating ourselves (Proverbs 18:1). And there is a good reason why it encourages us to seek relationship, to “speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15),” and to “let the word of Christ dwell richly among you (plural), teaching and admonishing one another and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16). There are a myriad of safe ways we can meaningfully engage with one another, even in a season of physical separation (i.e., phone calls, video calls, across yards, and out of car windows with proper physical distancing).

We are in a pandemic that has left little if any, of our world untouched. So much unknown still exists around the virus. There is so much speculation, so many opinions on our health and economy, so much political rhetoric, and so many people on opposite sides of interpretation of the data. As believers, what can, or what should we do? As I have thought hard, wrestled with our reality, and prayed exhaustively, I have found that the best advice to be anchored firmly in God’s word, written thousands of years before our present circumstances, yet living and active and speaking to us even today. The following are a few of the truths I have needed to be reminded of regularly in these days, and I want to encourage you with them as well.

Let’s remember that God is sovereign

There is not a single inch of this world where the Coronavirus has taken ground away from God. He made this world, and He rules over it. David declares this truth in Psalm 24, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalm 24:1). But this is the reality from the beginning in Genesis as well. Even as we move to Genesis 3 and find ourselves face to face with the reality of our sin, God is still in control over the world He has made. The rest of the Scripture attests to this very reality in continual and profound ways. Even when we see brokenness around us and experience it personally, we must remember that God is working, even in the midst of it, often in ways we cannot understand. He is calling us to trust Him and reminding us that He is faithful.

Let’s be honest with ourselves that we need other people

No one is meant to live in isolation. Even if you tend to be introverted, you were made to need relationship even if it is limited to a few close people. We need the encouragement that comes from friendship, accountability, and at times the correction relationships provide. We see scriptural examples of these truths in the life of Paul in his second letter to Timothy as he says, “Do your best to come to me soon…Get Mark and bring him with you (2 Timothy 4:9,11).” We even see it in the humanity of Christ on the night He was betrayed when He says to Peter, James, and John, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch” (Mark 14:34).

We have a rugged individualism that often seems woven into the fabric of our culture, and while internal strength is good, this “I can go it on my own” rubs against the fabric of God’s design. Let’s be okay with needing other people, and see it not as a weakness, but as good, edifying, and a part of our design.

Let’s be open to reaching out

This goes both ways. If we can be honest that we need other people, then we can be intentional in reaching out to others in times of need. Don’t assume other people know how you are doing or feeling. Likely, they don’t. They may have assumptions, but unless you are in contact with them, they can’t know completely what is going on. Likewise, don’t just assume people are doing ok. Chances are, they aren’t.

I don’t mean to imply that everyone is spinning out of control, but we are living in a world that is broken. We all know it. That brokenness affects us all in various ways. Be intentional to call, or at a minimum, text others that you know to check in. And by all means, do so, if the Spirit brings them to mind. None of us are so busy that we can’t stop what we’re doing long enough to reach out and check on someone who the Spirit has brought to mind.

We see this play out biblically in many of Paul’s letters to the churches spread throughout the Roman empire. Paul had to do this via a message written on parchment and hand-delivered. Take for example his first letter to the church at Thessalonica. He expresses his deep love for them, and a desire to know how they are doing, and He does something about it. He sends others to check on them, hears a report, and writes a letter to follow up (1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13).

The tension we feel right now due to the isolating nature of our circumstances is a reminder that things are not as they should be. As believers, this should be a common theme in our lives, even without a pandemic. Let’s recognize the reality of living in anticipation of ultimate redemption while resisting the things the enemy throws in our path to distract us from what is best. Let’s race to God, who is always near, and draw our primary strength from Him. But let’s be careful to also embrace His good design for us that leads us to need other people as well. 

Don’t try and go it alone. If you are experiencing the negative emotional and spiritual effects of being isolated, we want to connect with you. You are not alone. You can contact us by clicking here.

 


¹ Reeves, Michael. Delighting in the Trinity (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2012), 41.
² Mohler, R.  Albert, Jr. The Apostles Creed (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2019), 134.
³ For several articles highlighting some of these statistics see:  https://time.com/5833619/mental-health-coronavirus/, or https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/05/04/mental-health-coronavirus/, or a pastor’s perspective here https://ericgeiger.com/2020/04/covid-19-and-a-pastors-concern-for-our-mental-health/

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