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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is Isolation Truly The Devil's Playground?

I spent some time this weekend in Wenatchee, Washington. I spoke at a men's conference on the topic of isolation. My specific title was "Is Isolation Truly the Devil's Playground?

Far too often when we hear of stories of isolation we are drawn to the stories with the "wow factor". Stories like Karp Lykov and his family who isolated themselves from civilization in the unforgiving and harsh Siberian wilderness for 40 years as told by The Lykovs in fear of religious persecution isolated themselves so gravely that they absolutely missed the occurrence of World War II. They were only discovered unexpectedly by Russian geologist conducting new mineral explorations by helicopter.

Too often we miss the opportunity to properly decode messages we are receiving when it comes to isolation in our own lives. I am speaking of messages and simple truths which easily go unnoticed but are at the core of our destructive isolated lives. Did you realize this simple truth of women "confront to connect", while men "withdraw to resolve"? As a result, men have a greater tendency to disconnect and isolate (withdraw) themselves from their spouses, families, and so much more. Think about it, how much would that simple but powerful truth save you and your dependents a great deal of pain if you understood how to properly react to the natural tendencies we have been given by the Creator?

The general definition of isolate or isolation is having minimal contact or little in common with others. From a biblical context, words and expressions which have been used to reference isolation include quarantine, imprison, desolate, seclude, wilderness, go away, went away, withdrew, withdraw, shut out, and exclude. As such, in order to define or more accurately decode isolation we face I thought it would serve our purpose best to explore the various faces of isolation.

In such a pursuit, here are a few faces of isolation which are commonly in our midst and circles yet we frequently fail to notice them as signs of isolation.

  • Dysfunctional families (with troubled children) frequently exclude themselves in shame or are excluded by us.
  • Growing divorce rate and frequent geographic moves have left many elderly adults isolated. Middle-aged adults only care for parents when they stand to gain.
  • Individuals with disability and/or parents of children with disability (estimated 40%) have absolutely no connection with the community in which they live.
  • Andrew Solomon writes, "Syndrome and symptom cause each other: loneliness is depressing, but depression also causes loneliness." Who are the depressed in your circles?
  • Isolation marked family of teen who claims captivity. As in Mitch Comer's case, abusers often isolate themselves, their families, and their victims.
  • Dating and marriage relationships with controlling individuals often end in isolation.
  • Many spouses live in the same house, sleep in the same bed, but are absolutely isolated at the heart. This is frequently exhibited by comments which viciously cut to the core of the other.
  • Under the Kanun, an Albanian code of behavior that has been passed on for more than 500 years, "blood must be paid with blood." Many males live in self-imposed isolation for fear of death, and many families are practically killed off.
Furthermore, in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes and chapter 4, King Solomon the world's wisest man gives us a look into the isolation man has imposed on himself due to a craving for vanity. He begins (verses 1-3) with claims that neither the oppressed nor the oppressor finds any comfort. While those who have passed on from this life are extremely fortunate, even more  fortunate and blessed are the unborn who have never seen this life, he said.
  1. We isolate ourselves in moments of jealousy and envy. (v.4)
  2. We isolate ourselves in idleness and laziness. (v.5)
  3. We isolate ourselves by misinterpreting busyness, especially in career, as success. (v.6)
  4. We isolate ourselves by becoming self-centered, greedy, & selfish. (v.7,8)
  5. We isolate ourselves with an arrogant and know-it-all attitude (v.13,14)
Solomon then provides a few simple but effective reasons we ought to reject and avoid isolation:
  1. Many hands make light work (v.9)
  2. For the reason of support (v.10)
  3. Companionship in marriage and the warmth it delivers (v.11)
  4. For reasons of protection (v.12)
  5. With humility, even in notable brilliance (v.15)
So is isolation truly the Devil's playground? In Luke 4:1-4, "The Temptation of Christ", note the strategies and tactics of the devil. These are the same strategies and tactics he uses with us and others who find themselves isolated such as the faces we discussed above. Note also the differences in our moments of isolation, than that of Jesus Christ. Satan will:
  1. attack when we are alone and potentially at our weakest point
  2. test and question the core of who we say we are ("If you say you are the Son of God...")
  3. offer up a fake of what we desperately need most (Jesus was famished)
The usual difference between us and Jesus which will guarantee a victory over the attacks of the devil are:
  1. Was Jesus really isolated although we frequently think He was when reading this passage? No!
    1. He was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit
    2. Jesus went into the wilderness seeking companionship with the Father
  2. When we isolate, we go it alone. We are prime target of Satan's strategy and tactics.
The solution to isolation is "companionship", not only with God the Father, but also His greatest creation; mankind and those he has entrusted to us for fellowship and community.

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