When Isolation is Not from the Devil
Updated: May 21
If you've spent time around Christians, as I have, you likely believe isolation is the plot, scheme, and territory of the devil. He's the stalking wolf, lurking and waiting for sheep to wander away from the protection of the fold. In the midst of stressing the importance of caring for the flock, 1 Peter 5:8 warns us to:
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
Sadly, we've all known at least one who was "on fire for God" that suddenly went missing. When we finally catch up with them, hell's forces of darkness, addiction, and compromise are wreaking havoc. So, we resolve to invite them to the next church service and encourage them to respond to the altar call (note: this lazy form of outreach is not the biblical definition of evangelism, but that's a subject for another blog).
Leaving behind traditional interpretations, think of isolation like a cloak or mantle. Consider that it is the Lord's will to separate for Himself one(s) who can bear the weight of divine assignments. Think of Noah, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and Jesus Christ. Whether married or celibate, regardless of friends or followers, theirs was a lonely journey with God.
THE MASTER OF ISOLATION
Jesus Christ mastered the art of aloneness - this is different from loneliness, the negative feeling usually associated with rejection, insecurity, or relational instability. I mean, despite the constant pull in all directions from those He was closest to, Jesus brilliantly maintained independence on the soul (mind, will, emotion) level.
Jesus did not allow gossip, hateful words, and false accusations to distort His self-image. He didn't wallow in self-pity when people abandoned Him. The sins of His earthly parents didn't ruin His future or perpetuate reckless behaviors in adulthood (no doubt Joseph and Mary were as imperfect as parents in the 21st century). And aside from the Father, Jesus did not seek attention or approval from anyone. His validation came from an inward revelation of who He was in God, and that He is God (Jn. 10:30, 14:11).
In full view of His disciples' faults and failures, Jesus demonstrated deep affection without hypocrisy, holding nothing back. He ate meals with them, had sleepovers in their boats, and devoted much time to teaching them the ways of His kingdom. Christ is the perfect example of the Father's love for us. Yet, it is erroneous and silly to think God needs created things to experience wholeness. God embodies the fullness of love and is entirely self-sufficient (1 Jn. 4:8, 16). When He shows love, He shows Himself. When God expresses love, He is not limited to conditional, emotional responses but is compelled to action and committed unto death (Jn. 3:16).
The moment we enter the world, we're conditioned to receive excessive attention, praise, and compliments. While reclining helplessly in strollers and car seats, or resting in someone's arms, we manage to wrap the world around our fingers. Toothless grins, gurgles and coos, fat rolls...first words, first steps, first potty - everyone celebrates and loses their mind over all the cuteness. Grownups don't know where their money is going, but we're spoiled and loving it! Then, something happens around the time puberty sets in...we begin to understand how screwed up our families really are, and the adults know we know. Compliments dissolve into criticism and we're stuck searching for attention and praise elsewhere.
My childhood definitely left me high and dry and looking for acceptance in every wrong place. For years, I fantasized about the perfect scenario of friendship and, eventually, this became an idol. I figured the sheer number of people I made contact with would produce at least one created just for me. Selfish ambitions kept me on a loop of prostituting my emotions to anyone willing to listen and show a bit of sympathy. I cut off whoever didn't fit the mold and moved on to the next. As a result, my adult life is scarred by dysfunctional and broken relationships.
It's impossible for everyone we meet to care deeply for us; even fewer are the number of people who understand us in a meaningful way (Prov. 14:10). To break negative cycles of high expectations, deep disappointments, and shallow connections, we have to declare war against our flesh and the devil. We must take authority over wrong thought patterns and dispel lies (2 Cor. 10:3-5). The battles of emotional prostitution can only be won by a series of small victories where we overcome assuming too much and too little about others and ourselves.
SAINTS MUST WALK ALONE
To be clear, saints are not "holier than thou" types who religiously isolate themselves and reject those that believe differently (Prov. 18:1). True saints are simply born again, believers in Jesus Christ. Saint-ship, if you will, is not about pious attitudes or perfect behavior, it is a matter of right standing with God. In this case, isolation is a journey with the Lord, alone in the soul. To get a glimpse into the heart of one who walks alone, we have to spend immeasurable moments of time in their company. Unfortunately, in a majority of marriages and friendships, people are unwilling to sincerely study the other person.
Scripture distinguishes mature believers as those who walk confidently in the presence and power of God. When we relinquish our ideas of how earthly relationships should appear, we'll likely find it unnecessary to surround ourselves with those whose loyalty is untested. Likewise, once we're no longer under the influence of relatives and culture, we'll likely stop attaching negative thoughts and emotions to lonely situations. Although we're made for fellowship, we gain the greatest revelation of our identity in Christ when we go deep places in God no one else is willing to go.
I'll leave you with a quote from A. W. Tozer:
The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world; a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians...