Painkillers: Isolation

“What’s the point? If I get close to someone, they’re just going to hurt me. Again.”

It’s a phrase that’s been screamed or muttered or pondered silently countless times over the course of history by more souls than we will ever know. But history really isn’t relevant when you’re hurting, right here, right now.

The human body recoils reflexively from pain. Just as your hand instinctively jerks back from a hot stove, and your eyes shut tight to block a flying object, your psyche also responds to the potential for pain. It retracts instantly and furiously from whatever looks painful.

The trouble is, this life is (and will continue to be) painful by nature. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33b] We can’t avoid pain here, even if we totally shut ourselves off from everyone.

But what’s wrong with trying? Why isn’t it okay to just want to protect yourself from more pain?

There are actually several problems with isolation.

  1. When we are isolated, we can’t fulfill our purpose toward others.
  2. When we are isolated, we can’t receive good from others.
  3. When we are isolated, we’re not trusting God to protect us.
  4. When we are isolated, we become very self-centered and selfish, which is a sin.

Let’s look at these one at a time.

#1 — We can’t fulfill our purpose toward others when we are isolated.

There’s an old saying that goes, “No man is an island [unto himself].” It comes from a devotional poem by that name, written by John Donne, way back in 1624. The Apostle Paul said something similar in Romans 14:7, “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.”

What this poet and Paul meant is that none of us, no matter how hard we try, are truly separated from other people. For example, if you take a job or buy a home or park in a parking space, by nature that means someone else can’t fill that position. You have changed them even without ever seeing or speaking to them. Similarly, if you quit a job or leave a home or vacate a parking spot, you’ve opened a position for someone else, even without knowing them at all.

In this, and innumerable other ways, all people are interconnected and interdependent on each other — even if we do everything in our power to separate ourselves completely from others. It’s impossible to be a complete island, all alone and unaffected by anyone.

Just as no one is truly an island, everyone has someone they can help or support. Maybe it’s your children, or your crazy cat lady neighbor, or even an animal that’s lost and in need of comfort. If you are isolating yourself, you aren’t fulfilling whatever purpose God has for you here on earth. Galatians 6:2 admonishes us to, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Isolating yourself may mean that your ministry here on earth goes undone. Who is suffering while you keep to yourself?

#2 — We can’t receive good from others when we are isolated.

When you isolate yourself, you shut off the chances that anyone can do something good for you. “Wait,” you say. “I’ll gladly give up any good thing someone may or may not do for me in exchange for never being hurt again!”

But God won’t let us get by with that. We have both good and bad things about ourselves, and Jesus freely accepts us, faults and all. So, we must accept both the good and bad in others, as well. God never intended us to be alone. After He created Adam, He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” [Genesis 2:18]

We usually think about this in the physical, but what we can’t see is the spiritual. Have you ever heard the safety tips from law enforcement officers and self-defense specialists? They always recommend, whenever possible, for women, children, and others who feel vulnerable, to travel in groups.

Just as our physical enemies don’t want to attack a group — because groups are stronger and more powerful — so does Satan shy away from a group of believers banded together. If he finds one alone, like the lone sheep easily overcome by the wolf, Satan and his demons feel freer to attack. When you bond together with other believers, you make yourself stronger and less of a target, for both physical and spiritual enemies!

Other people don’t just bring love and companionship and blessings into your life. They also bring a measure of both physical and spiritual protection. Even if they’re less than perfect, they sure beat standing alone against the armies of Satan!

#3 — We’re not trusting God when we are isolated.

Did you know that if you are saved, you don’t even belong to yourself anymore? You belong to Jesus. When you isolate yourself to protect yourself and your feelings, you’re actually telling Jesus, “Hey, I don’t trust you to take care of me.”

The opposite of trust is fear. As long as we have fear, such as the fear of being hurt that keeps us isolated, we cannot have trust and faith. The Bible says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” [I John 4:8]

Do you trust the Lord? Do you believe in His love enough to let His other children into your life? Rejecting other people isn’t just mistrust in Jesus. It is also a rejection of His other children that He loved and died for.

#4 — We become very selfish and self-centered when we are isolated.

Proverbs 18:1 states, “One who has isolated himself seeks his own desires; he rejects all sound judgment.” Even if we didn’t have selfish feelings when we set about to separate ourselves from others, the very act of spending all that time alone causes us to shift into the center of our own personal universe. That’s self-centeredness, and it always leads to acts of selfishness.

It works like this: When you have family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and even acquaintances in your life, then you must spend at least part of your time doing for them, thinking about them, and interacting with them. When you’re isolated, all of that time is free, and your focus is always on you. What you want. What you need. How you feel. What you think.

Philippians 2:3-4 also warns us about this: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This is scary in the natural! But when you are perfected in love and know that King Jesus is looking out for you, it becomes no problem at all. You take care of them; your Lord and Savior takes care of you.

If you find that you’re always worried, always troubled, always drowning in your problems … the best thing to do is step back and refocus your attention on others. You’ll find that the more time and effort you spend helping others with their problems, the fewer problems you seem to have of your own.

For example, if you spend an hour serving food to folks who are homeless, your drippy faucet in your 2-story, 3-bedroom home doesn’t seem like such a big deal. If you spend time volunteering at a nursing home, your slight crow’s feet or a touch of arthritis in your fingers won’t bother you at all. Spend some time at a children’s hospital and you’ll be grateful for your own kids, nieces, and nephews, even if they aren’t everything they could be. Helping other people with their problems has a mysterious way of causing our own not to look so bad.

In closing, Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, “… let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Most Christians agree, that Day is breathtakingly close.

How can you encourage others if you’re in isolation? Step out of your comfort zone, and allow the healing power of Jesus to bind your wounds and protect you from harm. After all, that’s His job, not yours.

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