Isolation- the good, the bad, and the necessary
I'm sure many of you already have the concept of isolation on the mind because of the lingering pandemic and the mandatory quarantines due to it. Yesterday, our main social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp) all went down worldwide. This had me thinking about isolation more than ever before.
We live in a world of constant communication and limitless possibilities to connect with one another. I want to touch on isolation for a bit: the good parts, the bad parts, and even the necessary parts of sometimes taking isolation.
First, there are two kinds of isolation: isolating yourself physically from other people and isolating your mind/time from something.
The word isolation seems so bad and scary and not at all what God intended for our lives, right? Well, partially. God didn't intend for us to live in complete isolation, but that doesn't mean that taking intentional periods of isolation can't be good. Let's look to the Bible.
1. Leaves time for uninterrupted thinking
The world we live in is go, go, go, and do, do, do. We hardly ever stop to take moments to breathe, let alone think! When you decide to take isolation, whether it is physical isolation and time alone or mental isolation from social media and activities, it can help clear your mind and help you to refocus back on God. The Bible makes it clear that we should take time to just be.
"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10
2. Intentional time spent with God
We talked about being intentional several weeks ago and this is just reiterating what we talked about during that Bible study. Taking active isolation is good if your focus is to take intentional time with God.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
When we take intentional time to be in prayer and to give thanks to God, He gives us a peace and guards our hearts and mind. Whether you physically go somewhere by yourself to have uninterrupted time alone, or if you are just mentally clearing space to give to God, this type of isolation can be good.
3. Can help rid your life of things that do not have a place there
I don't know about you guys, but MAN, spending time off of social media yesterday was good for me. I felt so renewed and focused. I'm not trying to say that all social media is bad, but it is definitely a big distractor in my life and can be a huge time waster. Social media in and of itself isn't sinful in nature (though there are definitely sinful things posted or shared), but I wouldn't say it is an area of our lives that we have to cut out completely. It can be a good tool for connecting with others, sharing our lives, and even having fellowship and studying together like we do on Facebook every Tuesday night.
That, being said, creating isolation around certain activities can be a healthy way to get rid of or at least limit things in your life that do not have a place there or take too much of your time. This could look like isolating your nights and creating a "no social media" or maybe "no TV" designated time every night. This isn't physical isolation, it just simply blocking out your time and taking deliberate time to isolate yourself from things that are less important.
1. It can be lonely/was not God's intent for our lives
Isolation can be so lonely. God doesn't wish for us to be alone. Look at the first part of Genesis when God makes Adam. What does He say next?
"Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." Genesis 2:18
Since creation first happened God knew that He intended for man to have companionship.
2. Isolation does not encourage fellowship
If we physically isolate ourselves from others, we cannot receive and participate in fellowship with others. The Bible makes it clear that we are supposed to be a part of the Church with others.
"Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement." Proverbs 18:1
"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Hebrews 10:24-25
3. Can make us vulnerable to temptation
This goes with the above point about needing fellowship and brothers and sisters in Christ. When we face temptation, we need God and others to help us overcome it.
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability." 1 Corinthians 10:13
"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness" Galatians 6:1
1. Getting rid of temptation
This sounds an awful lot like what we talked about in "the good" section, doesn't it? It is similar but not completely the same. Isolation can be good because it can help show you things in your life that do not need to be there, time consuming areas that are not sinful in nature but that can be weeded out to benefit your ultimate goal of giving your life to God. However, isolation can sometimes be necessary in order to get rid of toxic influences and tempting activities that are sinful in nature and are necessary to let go of. Check out the last part of the verse we just read above:
"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted." Galatians 6:1
We are supposed to have fellowship and lean on brothers and sisters in Christ, but you have to be careful that you do not fall into the same temptation.
Take the example the Bible gives of the man whose hand is sinning against him:
"If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell." Matthew 5:29-30
Isolating yourself from certain activities or influential friend groups can help cut off those areas of your life that are drawing you away from the Lord. This kind of necessary isolation also comes with very necessary drawing near to God and to those around you who are good influences. Isolation does not have to be from everyone in your life. Let's look at the story of Jesus undergoing temptation:
4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after He had fasted for forty days and forty nights, He [a]then became hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil *took Him along into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and he *said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written:
‘He will give His angels orders concerning You’;
‘On their hands they will lift You up,
So that You do not strike Your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “[b]On the other hand, it is written: ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil *took Him along to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and [c]worship me.” 10 Then Jesus *said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and [d]serve Him only.’” 11 Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to serve Him. -Matthew 4:1-11
I don't think that in this passage Jesus necessarily isolated himself from the Apostles to avoid temptation because we know that the Devil still tempts Him. I almost wander if He was taking time by himself to fast, to focus on His Father and on His goal on this earth. We also see in verse 4 of the above passage that the Spirit actually led Jesus into isolation in the desert. I think that this could have been done just to really show us what a great example Jesus was. Seeking complete isolation to avoid temptation only makes it more difficult to overcome, which is why it is so important to isolate yourself from bad, but in turn to lean into God and your brothers and sisters in Christ. But the Spirit led Jesus into isolation to be tempted completely by Himself, with no apostles around Him, yet Jesus did not give in. Jesus was able to resist temptation because He is perfect. We cannot do it all on our own, and like I mentioned above, God does not intend us to.
The Best News:
Though there may be times in our lives that uncomfortable isolation from one another may be good or even necessary, the best news is that we never have to go through isolation from God. Jesus faced isolation from God when He died on the cross for our sins, that we might never have to be separated from God.
"And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, 'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit': and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." Luke 23:46