Have you ever watched those shows on History Channel or Discovery Channel that highlight these men and women who live out in the mountains, off the grid, all alone out in the wilderness? It can be pretty interesting in some ways. They chop a tree down and in 15 minutes they’ve made a canoe or built a house or something else crazy. They know what plants to eat, which ones not to eat. They can kill wild deer with their bare hands and have learned how to smelt iron to create tools. I mean some real wilderness stuff here. And while it can be interesting to do a show on, it can be pretty hard to imagine ourselves in that situation.
Can you imagine living in the woods having to rely on what you know what what you know alone to survive? I know some of us might think, “Finally, I’d get some peace and quiet!” But let’s be honest, the vast majority of us would be dead in about a week. Some much less!
While it seems nuts to go out into the woods and build a house out of a tree and kill your own food and eek out your life based on your knowledge alone, we do that a lot, but rather than a physical going into the woods, we do that emotionally. We do that relationally. We do that spiritually.
One of the quickest paths to destruction is isolation. It puts you in a world where your betterment is completely reliant on yourself. Your own ability. Your own strength. Your own knowledge. When we isolate, we are literally creating a ceiling in our lives, one that is control by our own ability to manage, handle issues, and grow.
Sadly, this is a mindset that is somewhat built into western culture. We live in a society that values independence. Now, on the top level there’s nothing wrong with that, but to easily independence becomes isolation. We hear this in phrases like, “I’m my own person,” “I’m in control of my destiny,” “I am gonna do me.” People are unwilling to allow anyone to have any input into their lives, their problems, their struggles. They want to be free to live how they want, and it is at this moment that independence becomes isolation. And social media had made this worse.
Social media is the way we present the best of highlights of our lives. Nothing wrong with showing your best of highlights, but to often we use these best moments to hide our worst moments. It is easier to put up a happy photo than deal with a broken heart. This perfection-focused society doesn’t make room for your faults. It demands we present perfection and fix your problems on your own time.
The good news is that western culture isn’t God’s culture.
Our culture values perfection and appearances. But God values honesty and relationship. What the culture wants lives very happily in isolation. But what God wants needs community. God wants us to share our lives with himself and his people. He wants us to immerse ourselves in life-giving relationships. And the reason for that is the best part: it is because he knows that we reach our potential in community. How?
In my own life, these life-giving relationships have encouraged me, helped me through tough seasons, shown me areas of concern in my life I couldn’t see for myself. They’ve refused to let me walk alone, they’ve offered a shoulder when I needed comfort, and they’ve lended me their faith when mine was low. They’ve helped me process pain and overcome sin in my life. They’ve helped me see the best in myself when I couldn’t see it for myself.
Isolation has only brought me fear, frustration, and hopelessness. Only in isolation have my problems gotten worse, my outlook gotten bleaker, and my hope of being better than I am gotten dimmer.
But when I am around people who know me and who know God and who want to see me succeed, hope comes alive in me. My faith in God is strengthened and I stop just dreaming about a day when I could be better, I begin living it.
It is easy to see why satan wants us in isolation. He wants us to stay in our sin and remain in our brokenness. But when we abandon isolation, when we are willing to talk about our imperfections and address our issues, light shines into even the darkest place in our hearts and we experience freedom.
So today, fight the culture. We are more connected than ever yet more isolated than ever. God’s desire for us is community because in the context of community, we can become who God wants us to be. If you are isolated, come down out of the mountains. find one person who knows you and who knows God. Talk to them. Pour out your life to them. If you need help, ask for it. If you need encouragement, ask for it. In Christ, there is no shame in asking for help. Once you do, once you make the decision to be intentional about living life with godly people, you are going to see all of the muck that comes with isolation replaced by freedom that comes with relationship.