Social Isolation and the Christian

4 minute read

Christians aren’t supposed to have emotional problems. But some of us do. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are just as fallen as other people, though forgiveness (Psalm 103:12) makes hope possible. Even so, reconciliation with God the Father does not always eliminate the suffering which marks this side of eternity. Pretending otherwise is not wise. Especially for Christians who struggle with social anxiety or are socially isolated for other reasons.

God makes his strength perfect in weakness

It may be that we who take on the name of Christ have more issues than other people. As Jesus said,

They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Mark 2:17)

St. Paul confirms it:

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)

Don’t hide your weakness

There’s an arrogance which seeks to pretend things are just fine when they are far from okay. Christians learn early on to put on a good face. But a good face is a put-on. A church of masks is cold. The lonely sheep shake hands and smile quietly as they shuffle out the door.

What it feels like

You can find all kinds of discussions of social isolation on the web such as this, this, or even this. Definitions vary. There are levels of social isolation moving from from mild to severe. One day the sufferer realizes they are mostly alone.

Whether by choice or circumstance, their days are spent apart from communion with other people. On the surface everything looks normal. The sufferer may exchange words with the cashier at the grocery store checkout or wave as they pass a neighbor on the street. But weeks can pass without his having shared a true thought, concern, or hope with another living soul.

Causes

The easy psychologizing of the last century has left many of us with an automatic tendency to dig for the underlying reasons for things. I’m not sure this is helpful. If you can relate to this post, perhaps your social isolation developed or worsened when…

  • Your church changed, leaving you behind
  • You retired
  • Your spouse died
  • etc.

No matter the why, you became a one, apart.

The what is key

If you find yourself cut off from others, it’s time to decide to pay attention to this aspect of your life. God does not intend for you to be socially isolated. And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone. (Genesis 2:18a) Though the Lord spoke this about Adam, he meant it for every single one of us. Including you.

Social media is not the solution

Seducers make false promises to advance their own causes. Social media and the internet pretend to be a godsend for the socially isolated. But that’s not how they work.

Because online technologically mediated interactions are easier for socially isolated people to manage, such ones gravitate towards them. Over time telephone calls and face-to-face communications fall away, and only Facebook remains.

We were created with physical bodies. God’s intention is for people to be in proximity to one another when they talk, disagree, and reconcile. Any other kind of communication is an inferior substitute. Feed on unhealthy food long enough and you will become sick.

There are thousands of years of recorded history and experience showing the nature and importance of relationship. Social media is less than 20 years old, yet it has reshaped pattern, rhythm, and structure. It’s becoming the normal means of communication. And social isolation is growing.

The church

In a world different than this one, help for Christians with social isolation would come through pastor and church community. Yet true friendships at church are not so easy to develop.

Quite often a the pastor sets an example of openness and hospitality. But churches have their own cultures. And there is only so much pastors can do to change them.

It’s up to us to figure out how to break through the walls that separate us as Christians one from another.

Watch for the struggling ones and pray for each other

  • If you attend a church but have no genuine relationships with the people there, challenge yourself to do something about it.

  • Even if this does not apply to you - I bet there are people in your church to whom it does. Is there anything you can do to reach out to those people you don’t know?

  • Take the risk of saying something real to one person next Sunday. Start with the pastor if you must.

Let me know how it goes.

If you are socially isolated, please make a decision to do everything you can to change your situation. Don’t worry if you don’t know what to do about it. The most important thing you can do is to ask God for help. He cares for you. If you’d like me to pray for you, let me know. I will.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and does not find fault; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5)

God bless you, and keep you, and make his face to shine upon you, and give you rest. Amen.

Originally published at: Comfort for Christians

Comments

Thanks for this post, Alec. The church—a sound and healthy one, that is—is a community, also called in Scripture a spiritual house built of living stones (1 Peter 2:5). I have maintained that the cement which holds the stones together is genuine friendship; the foundational infrastructure is sound doctrine and practice. I think you are right in your thoughts of simply speaking of our reality to another in the spiritual community—though we must be careful in trying to discern if the person is safe to confide in; that takes perhaps a little time. Healthy forests, or gardens, grow slowly. Thank you very much for sharing!

Dear Lord, Help my brother, Our brother, Alec in his struggles. You truly know his hardships and pain, and remind him that yes, its ok for a Christian to suffer in Your name, even if that suffering is one of loneliness and rejection. You in your wisdom planted us in enemy territory, a trial by fire, to find your true loving followers. Every week I remind myself of what our elder brother Charles Spurgeon, who himself struggled for years with depression, once said: “I walk through this sinful world as a pilgrim in a foreign country” Dear Father, hold Alec in your arms and lead him to a small church, full of loving bereans who have been through the fire also, where the word sin is not alien to the pastors lips, and where the word love is always followed by “of Jesus” or “of God”. Lead him to where the old hymns are sung with ghusto and the main accompaniment is not drums or guitars, but tears. And should You in Your wisdom lead him to the foot of the Rockies, where the very land points to Your Glory, let him know where he will find a small, loving community thats waiting for him. Ill bring the coffee.

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