isolation

Since March we’ve had our share of unique experiences: the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns, social isolation, constant news surfing, social and political upheaval, etc. These experiences led to a number of social/emotional responses, not the least of which have been significant rises in depression symptoms and suicidal thoughts.

Time magazine related the following:

A pre-pandemic survey of about 5,000 American adults found that 8.5% of them showed strong enough signs of depression (including feeling down or hopeless; loss of interest in things that normally bring joy; low energy; trouble concentrating; or thinking about self-harm) to warrant a probable diagnosis. When researchers surveyed almost 1,500 American adults about their mental health from March to April of this year, that number rose to almost 28%. Even more people—almost an additional 25%—showed milder signs of depression.

JAMIE DUCHARME

These depression symptoms further resulted in an increase in suicidal thoughts. According to the CDC 11% of adults contemplated suicide in June. The percentage of individuals in the 18-24 age group was a staggering 25.5% in June.

No doubt our unique set of circumstances has driven us to emotional, mental, and societal turmoil. We are not the first people to face such turmoil, nor will we be the last. Currently, we are working through the book of Jeremiah at our church. If you’re interested, you can find our sermons on YouTube or Vimeo. Jeremiah’s ministry was more than 40 years long during a time when his nation was idolatrous and immoral. He invited them to repent, warned them of coming judgment, and found stability in his walk with God. As you might imagine Jeremiah was unpopular in his day. He suffered from anxieties, isolation, and persecution. His experience offers us some insight into how we can address our own anxieties and emotions in these days.

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.

Jeremiah 15:16.
  • Pursue peace through God’s Word. Jeremiah’s expression of joy in 15:16 is rare in his complaints and prophecies. Most of his prayers are laments and complaints. But Jeremiah found joy in the Word of God. Reading, studying, and memorizing Scripture is the primary means for the follower of Jesus to find peace, joy, and consolation in the midst of turmoil and anxiety. Remember, the news media and politicians are invested in your conflicts and anxieties. I’m not suggesting that you stick your head in the sand and ignore the news, but I am recommending that you spend more time in God’s Word and less time being inundated with the anxiety-driven news cycle around us.
  • Get help if you need it. God’s Word is an effective means for dealing with anxieties and worries, but in some cases you might need more help. If you are overly anxious, suicidal, or experiencing depression-like symptoms, let somebody know. Family, friends, fellow church members, or pastors will be willing to get you the help you need. Please don’t ignore your emotional well-being.
  • Look for someone else to encourage. Maybe you’re reading this and you’re ok. You’ve had your anxieties, but you’re through them. You’re in God’s Word and are experiencing his presence and blessings. Great! Look for someone else to encourage. You may be ok, but not everyone else is. If you are concerned about someone, check on them. Give them a call. Shoot them a text. Visit with them. As followers of Jesus, we are to share one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

If you are follower of Jesus, remember that you are called by the name of the Lord. We will get through this because we have God’s promises and his presence.

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

Governor Cooper issued a stay at home order on Friday for the state of North Carolina through the end of April. Social distancing and isolation are real. I realize that many of us will still be working. I also realize that many who remain at home are responsible for children or aging parents. But all of us will be affected by these bans.

We can no longer join friends or spouses for lunch at a favorite restaurant. We can no longer meet with our children’s friends for playdates. We can no longer meet together for worship services at our local churches. I could go on, but you are very well aware of these isolating circumstances.

I’m not here to debate the validity of the isolation, nor am I going to bemoan the difficulty of it. Rather, I would simply like to point out that God has used isolation as a tool for spiritual development for thousands of years. How can you be sure that God uses this situation in your life as a means of growth and development?

Here’s a short list of the ways God worked through people in the Bible while they were in places of isolation:

  • In the isolation of prison, God helped Joseph overcome bitterness and pride in preparing him to rescue his family from the famine.
  • In the isolation of the wilderness, God developed the heart and patience Moses would need to lead Israel during the exodus and their wilderness wanderings.
  • In the isolation of shepherding, God taught David the importance of worship and knowing the Good Shepherd.
  • In the isolation of famine, God taught Elijah his need to trust God for his daily needs.
  • In the isolation of captivity, God taught Daniel and his three friends the power of prayer and keeping the faith.

This is just a sampling. Throughout Scripture, God used isolating circumstances to get the spiritual attention of his people. Maybe he’s doing that with you and me today.

I reached out to some folks this past week with the question, “How are you managing your isolation?” I received a litany of responses. Here are some of the things people are doing to manage their isolating circumstances: housework, yard-work, serving family and neighbors, FaceTime with kids and grandkids, reading, writing, cooking, gardening, making art, playing music, studying, watching streamed worship services, writing down and sharing inspirational thoughts, walking, praying, exercising, making face-masks for hospitals, spending time with family, playing games, doing puzzles, extra devotional time, and schoolwork. These responses were great! Many of these activities provide natural stress relief. They help us deal with isolation while keeping us from desolation.

What can we take away from biblical examples and comments above to grow during this time of isolation? Here are several recommendation:

  • Set aside time each day to unplug and be quiet. It is tempting to constantly search for the latest COVID-19 update or binge watch tv. And these things aren’t necessarily wrong. But we will grow in the quiet with God. To be quiet and unplug for a period of time each day might require some aid from a spouse. Don’t be afraid to ask for some time alone.
  • Read the Bible and pray. Often, my time to unplug and be quiet is my time for prayer and Bible reading. They go together. Make sure you are reading the timeless and universal truths of Scripture and communicating to the only One who is sovereign.
  • Connect with others through communication. That we are socially distant and isolated does not mean that we cannot have any social interaction. Make time daily to talk to those in your life who matter most (parents, children, grandchildren). Call a neighbor. Text an acquaintance. Message someone you know. I’ve reached out to dozens of people in various ways in the last several weeks. My aim was to encourage them, but I’ve come away from nearly every conversation encouraged myself.
  • Find some good activities to relieve stress. The things people are doing to manage isolation are great. See the excellent list above provided by some of my friends. While all of these may not work for you, I would encourage you to find one (or several) that you can put into practice. Not only are these activities likely to reduce your stress, they can be God’s means for personal growth and development over the next weeks.

This time of isolation does not have to lead to desolation. It can lead to spiritual fruit in your life. By embracing the positives and opportunities of this situation, God can use these days to bring us closer to him. That in itself would be worth the isolation.

If you are in need of prayer or conversation, feel free to reach out. I’m happy and available to pray for you or chat with you. Message me through the social media platform that directed you to this blog or comment below.

Photo by Claudel Rheault on Unsplash