Have you ever had one of those days? You woke up with good intentions, but trouble found you like a hitchhiker waiting on the side of the road. You wanted to get to work early, but the car wouldn’t start, the suspense date just got moved up on that project you’re behind on, your routine car service turned into a major restoration, and the dog ate your child’s homework, and you have a parent-teacher conference. Somehow you survived and made it home for dinner.
You thought it was all over when you sat down to watch tv, but you can’t find the remote control. Suddenly you remember the song “If It Ain’t One Thing, It’s Another” (Richard Fields, 1994). The song explains the sentiment we may experience when stressful things happen in quick succession. “I’m making this song for all the people who at times in their lives feel bad. You know when you feel like even your blues have blues.” We’ve all been there but today was your turn.
If anyone in history can truly say “If It Ain’t One Thing, It’s Another,” it is Job. In one day, Job lost his wealth, most of his servants were killed, and his animals were stolen or slaughtered. As if that weren’t enough, Job’s children were all killed when their house collapsed on them (Job 1: 13-18). Satan isolated Job from his wealth, friends, and family, but he could not isolate him from God.
Isolation can devastate our personal, spiritual, and professional lives. When we are isolated, whether at work or at home, we tend to receive limited or filtered information, people avoid us, and we are often unaware of how our behaviors impact others. The reason isolation occurs when we are most vulnerable is explained in the movie: Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker (2019). When things go against them, there appears to be no hope of escape, and they are isolated, but our heroes are reminded by Zorii Bliss, “They win by making you think you’re alone.”
You’ve heard the adage “It’s lonely at the top.” Isolation, when unguarded often results in loneliness. According to the Harvard Business Review (2017), “being isolated at the top can compromise your decision making and leadership effectiveness, both of which require having as much firsthand information about a situation as possible.” Trouble acts like a wolf isolating the flock of sheep from the shepherd making each vulnerable. Isolation is a powerful tool that separates us from those we need and love and who are most likely to help us, especially God. It may feel like it sometimes, but you’re never alone. Jesus says (John 10:14-15, CEV):
“I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and they know me. Just as the Father knows me, I know the Father, and I give up my life for my sheep. “
Sometimes it is appropriate and necessary to isolate oneself from the situation. Jesus took the opportunity to isolate Himself, especially for prayer (Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, 6:45-46, 14:32-34, Luke 4:423, 5:16 and 6:12). In Jesus’ Solitude and Silence, author Bill Gaultiere states “The priority of Jesus’ solitude and silence is everywhere in the Gospels. It’s how he began his ministry. It’s how he made important decisions. It’s how he dealt with troubling emotions like grief. It’s how he dealt with the constant demands of his ministry and cared for his soul.”
The isolation and loneliness caused by trouble can be debilitating; however, the good news is that we can proactively take steps to guard against them before they occur. Guarding against isolation and loneliness begins with taking three initial steps:
- Accept the reality of the situation. Accept the fact that trouble is going to find us. It’s going to happen; it’s just a matter of when (Job 5:6-7, GW). “It’s normal to feel alone. It’s the pattern that weakens your knees and crushes your spirit (D. Rockwell, 2016)”. It isn’t easy to acknowledge isolation and loneliness, especially if we are the cause. Simply acknowledging you’re feeling alone and isolated can draw attention to the problem instead of avoiding or denying it.
- Confide and seek the support of others. Jesus led twelve but confided in three (Peter, James, and John). Don’t surround yourself with “Yes Men”; you’re defeating the purpose. Rather, seek the support of those that can honestly and objectively help you by providing valid information or an assessment of what they see regarding your situation and behavior.
- Find ways to serve others. Serving others has a way of shifting our attention from our problems to the needs of others. There are people all around you at church, work, and at home that could use a little help. It could be as simple as spending time with and listening to them. You just might find out that your problems aren’t so bad after all.
These three steps aren’t all-encompassing. Take time to assess other strategies. Don’t forget to ask others for help. Take a page from Jesus’ handbook; pray and ask God for guidance. Don’t let trouble make you a victim of isolation.
“Happiness comes when we stop complaining about the troubles we have and say thank you to God for the troubles we don’t have.” (Anonymous)