A couple of weeks ago something strange happened. I was sitting in church, listening to the sermon, struggling to pay attention to what was being said. All I could think of was that I was anxious. Anxious about what my immediate and distant future would bring, and how little control I had over my own life.
I had felt anxious before, of course. But this time I was caught by surprise by my reaction to my own anxiety: I wanted to be left completely alone.
I decided in my mind that as soon as the Sunday service was over, I would immediately sprint to the elevator, avoid greeting anyone, and go home by myself. In case I couldn’t avoid greeting someone, I would refrain from having a long conversation in order to avoid the most dreaded question: “How are you?” that would probably make me burst into tears.
The service came to an end at last, and I cowardly walked to the back of the room heading to the exit. I greeted a couple of people, and while everyone was gathering to chat and plan to go for lunch together (as they always do), I approached the elevator trying to go unnoticed, and finally arrived at my desired destination: being alone on the street on my way home where I could be alone with my thoughts, alone with my anxiety.
So that’s how I spent that Sunday afternoon: alone.
Now, wanting to isolate oneself to process things might seem justifiable to the world and it’s something that I often did as a non-Christian. The more isolated the better, it makes you less vulnerable. However, this time I questioned if my reaction to my own struggles was Christian-like. Days went by after that particular day and a question kept coming back to me insistently…
Why did I want to be alone?
My first answer to the question was something that would justify my self-imposed isolation: “I didn’t want to be a burden to anyone”. Of course that sounds like I was really about caring for others, but I wasn’t really. The real reason was that I didn’t want anyone to ask me how I was doing, burst into tears, and let them see I was struggling. I wanted to manage things by myself, and be self-sufficient.
So there it is, the real reason I wanted to isolate myself: Pride.
I didn’t want to look weak. I didn’t think others could help me (or would be interested in doing so). I didn’t want to be vulnerable and admit I, too, needed help.
But that is not the end of it… While I was sitting at church that day, planning my way out, I realized my decision to leave quickly was not only coming from within me but also from outside me. I guess that falls into the category of temptations from Satan. Let me explain:
I, as a Christian, know fellowship is essential for believers. I not only know it theoretically but I also practice it in my daily life. I invite people over for lunch, I visit sisters as often as I can, and I’ve learned to love that. How come, then, did I buy into the lie that being alone was the best decision that day?
Yes, it was partly because of my prideful heart that is being sanctified. But I honestly believe it was also the Prince of This World (Satan) who tempted me, the same way he tempted Jesus in the desert. He is, sometimes, the one saying: “you are better alone”, “nobody here will want to help you”, when one knows, and has proof, that none of those things are true. While God calls us to love each other and bear each other’s burdens sacrificially, Satan is interested in tearing our fellowship apart through making believers isolate themselves voluntarily. What better way to destroy a church?While God calls us to love each other and bear each other’s burdens sacrificially, Satan is interested in tearing our fellowship apart through making believers isolate themselves voluntarily. Click To Tweet
The Dangers of Isolation
I cannot remember the book where I read this, but it said, “Independence, self-sufficiency, and isolation are not compatible with the Christian life at all.” And I find that to be true in every sense.
In the non-Christian world one aims to be independent and self-sufficient, those are considered qualities. Women, especially, often see advertisements, celebrities and entertainment calling us to be strong independent women who don’t need anyone. Especially not men.
But the non-Christian world does not realize how damaging that is. They cannot see that they are depriving themselves from true, benevolent, and unconditional friendships. They ignore the fact that they need to humble themselves and actually rely on other people for help, support, and advice because nothing in us can sustain us. Also, they don’t see the good in denying one’s self and being there for others when they are in need.
Everything is about “self-care” and “self-love” and “self-satisfaction”, and that brings about all kinds of sins.
For the Chrstian, isolation has a whole range of negative consequences, the first one being to sin against God who explicitly calls us to love one another repeatedly. Secondly, isolating ourselves leads us to be prideful, and self-reliant, none of which God has called us to be. That pride leads us to think of us as wiser than we are, therefore to never ask for advice. And that lack of fellowship and advice leads us to sin and go deeper into our sin, free from anyone who could witness our actions and exhort us to repent.
Moreover, a pattern of isolation and self-reliance shows that one has not understood what the Gospel is truly about. It can come to show that the believer is probably not spending time reading their Bible and praying, because being in fellowship with God will always lead us to fellowship with other believers.
Isolation is no joke, and as Christians we should know better, we should realize we are always…
Better TogetherGod didn’t create Adam to be alone, and He didn’t create you to be alone either. It is for His glory, our good, and the good of others when He calls us to gather together, and carry each other’s burdens. Click To Tweet
There is a reason God has called us to rely entirely on Him through His Word, the Holy Spirit and His Church too. He didn’t create Adam to be alone, and He didn’t create you to be alone either. He didn’t create us to rely entirely on ourselves, but to always rely on Him and the brothers and sisters who surround us day to day.
He knows what is good for us, and we should trust it is for His glory, our good, and the good of others when He calls us to love others as we love ourselves. We should trust Him when He ordains that we assemble together as a church, carry each other’s burdens, and always seek to respond to others’ needs first.
It is for the benefit of no one, not God’s, nor ours, and certainly not others’, when we decide to go about our business completely alone instead of sharing our struggles with others, and seeking to love them when they are the ones struggling. As I’ve spent some time talking about this with other brothers and sisters, who have also been tempted to isolate themselves, we have all come to the same conclusion: We are better together.
So, be together! Don’t be the one rushing out of the building after Sunday’s service avoiding any human interaction, don’t shy away from sharing what you’re going through, and don’t shy away from asking others how they are doing. Go deeper into what they are learning or struggling to learn in their Christian walk, learn to love them and let them learn to love you too. That is what God has called us to, and, oh, it is so good!
I’ve understood all these concepts for a long time. I’ve even felt a strong ushering numerous times to connect more, but honestly, I feel incapable of doing so. I have a hard enough time connecting with my immediate family and boyfriend. I fail almost everyday with them. So, I plugged myself into blogging. It helps me out my thoughts together, encourage people, and spread God’s light without being in the presence of a stranger. As someone who still sometimes feels like she is lacking something, blogging isn’t enough. I simply don’t know how to get past my fear and anxiety. Praying about it scares me as well. Probably because I’m scared of being brave enough. Whenever I think about going to my local youth group (the size of it doesn’t help–it’s HUGE), tears swell inside of me. My throat tightens and my heart squeezes. The fear/anxiety socially cripples me in a way that I fear I’ll never get past it.