Strain: inherited or inherent character, quality, or disposition.Isolation: detach or separate so as to be alone. Isolation is as old as time itself. Since the beginning, when Adam and Eve rebelled against our Heavenly Father and hid themselves among trees, the human race has had a depraved disposition towards isolation.
It’s a terrible strain in our human condition. There are a variety of reasons why we tend to isolate ourselves from others. People get hurt (physically and emotionally) and when pain occurs a knee-jerk reaction is to withdraw from whatever person or circumstance is causing the pain. . We all need to withdraw to the wilderness and seek Jesus. Solitude is an important discipline in the believer’s life. I’m talking about the isolation that comes when you do something wrong or when someone hurts you.
Jesus warns us of this by predicting Peter’s denial in Luke 22.
But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.
Jesus knew that Peter was going to deny Him. He knew that Peter would run away and want to isolate himself (which he did) because despite all the bravado that Peter exhibited he was just as frail as the other disciples.
I love Jesus’ response; very straightforward. He accepts Peter with open arms, but goes further. He challenges him to look outward and strengthen his brothers. Peter was very influential among the eleven disciples. He had an integral role in bringing them together to lead the early church. Jesus’ response to Peter is the same today. We isolate ourselves when we feel guilty, when we make mistakes, when we realize the depravity of our human condition. However, God tells us to turn to him, not towards ourselves and commands us to strengthen one another.
Elijah’s contest on Mount Carmel is another illustrative point (will paraphrase for the sake of time). Elijah confronts hundreds of idolatrous prophets and goads them to a contest to determine what god, Baal or the Lord, is the true God. Elijah called down fire from heaven and proved that the Lord is the true God and the people of Israel killed all of Baal’s prophets. MONUMENTAL victory here, Elijah is on cloud nine. Queen Jezebel hears of Elijah’s actions and…
So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.
Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. I have had enough, Lord, he said. Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.
1 Kings 19:2-4
The mightiest prophet in history ran for his life and what was the first thing he did? and he left his servant there. He abandoned his brother and went on alone into the wilderness. You are and will always be more vulnerable when you are alone. Interesting end to this story when God tells Elijah to go back the way he came and anoint Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha (his successor). God didn’t drop some crazy revelation in Elijah’s lap. He told him to find other men and strengthen them.
We must remember how imperative it is to strengthen our brothers and sisters. Our tendency is to forget that, to go at it alone and deal with our own problems. You may be in a wilderness of your own wanting to withdraw because of the mistakes you’ve made. Don’t. Look to Jesus, find another brother or sister, and invest in them. Jesus didn’t tell Peter to hang out with his brothers; he attached a mission to his command. Mission must be associated with community in the Christ follower’s life.
Be careful of the strain of isolation that has the potential to rob us of God’s best for our lives. Find new people, strengthen them by pushing them to Jesus. As Pastor Russ Austin says, “love em’, party with em’, and show them a resurrected Jesus that’s changing the world.”
I’m Harold Dorrell Briscoe. Thanks for reading.