Isolation

Comes from despair:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O LORD, hear my voice.  Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

If you, OLORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? – Psalms 130:1-2

In the depths of despair, the psalmist cried out to God. Despair makes us feel isolated and distant from God, but this is precisely when we need God most.  Despair over sin should not lead to self-pity, causing us to think more about ourselves than God.  Instead, it should lead to confession and then to God’s mercy, forgiveness, and redemption.  When we feel overwhelmed by a problem, feeling sorry for ourselves will only increase feelings of hopelessness; but crying out to God will turn our attention to the only One who can really help.

(Ploughmen have ploughed my back and made their furrows long.  – Psalm 129:3.  This verse foreshadowed Jesus’ unjust punishment before his death.  He endured horrible lashes from the whip of his tormentors, which indeed made “furrows” on his back (John 19:1).)

(Ploughmen have ploughed my back and made their furrows long. But the LORD is righteous; he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked. – Psalm 130:3, 4.  Keeping a record of sins (or holding a grudge) is like building a wall between you and another person, and it is nearly impossible to talk openly while the wall is there.  God doesn’t keep a record of our sins; when he forgives, he forgives completely, tearing down any wall between us and him.  Therefore, we fear (revere) God, yet we can talk to him about anything.  When you pray, realise that God is holding nothing against you.  His lines of communication are completely open.)

 

Sin isolates us from God:

Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.

Why should you be beaten any more? Why do you persist in rebellion?  Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted.  From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness – only wounds and bruises and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil.

Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. The Daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a field of melons, like a city under siege.  Unless the LORD Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah. – Isaiah 1:4-9

As long as the people of Judah continued to sin, they cut themselves off from God’s help and isolated themselves. When you feel lonely and separated from God, remember that God does not abandon you.  Our sins cut us off from him.  The only sure cure for this kind of loneliness is to restore a meaningful relationship with God by confessing your sin, obeying his instructions, and communicating regularly with him (see Psalm 140:13; Isaiah 1:16-19; 1 John 1:9).

(Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth!  For the LORD has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.  The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.  Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption!  They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. – Psalm 1:2-4.  Here “Israel” means the southern kingdom, Judah.  The people of Judah were sinning greatly and refused to know and understand God.  God brought charges against them through Isaiah because they had rebelled and had forsaken the Lord.  By these acts, they had broken their moral and spiritual covenant with God (see Deuteronomy 28).  By breaking their agreement, they were bringing God’s punishment upon themselves.  First God gave them prosperity, but they didn’t serve him.  Then God sent them warnings, but they refused to listen.  Finally, he would bring the fire of his judgment (see 1:7).)

 

Don’t isolate yourself from other believers:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. – Ephesians 3:14-15

The family of God includes all who have believed in him in the past, all who believe in the present, and all who will believe in the future. We are all a family because we have the same Father.  He is the source of all creation, the rightful owner of everything.  God promises his love and power to his family, the church (3:16-21).  If we want to receive God’s blessings, it is important that we stay in contact with other believers in the body of Christ.  Those who isolate themselves from God’s family and try to go it alone cut themselves off from God’s power.

(I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. – Ephesians 3:13.  Why should Paul’s suffering make the Ephesians feel honoured (“which are your glory”)?  If Paul had not preached the gospel, he would not be in jail – but then the Ephesians would not have heard the Good News and been converted either.  Just as a mother endures the pain of childbirth in order to bring new life into the world, Paul endured the pain of persecution in order to bring new believers to Christ.  Obeying Christ is never easy.  He calls you to take up your cross and follow him (Matthew 16:24) – that is, to be willing to endure pain so that God’s message of salvation can reach an entire world.  We should feel honoured that others have suffered and sacrificed for us so that we might reap the benefit.)

(..so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:17-19.  God’s love is total, says Paul.  It reaches every corner of our experience.  It is wide – it covers the breadth of our own experience, and it reaches out to the whole world.  God’s love is long – it continues the length of our lives.  It is high – it rises to the heights of our celebration and elation.  His love is deep – it reaches to the depths of discouragement, despair, and even death.  When you feel shut out or isolated, remember that you can never be lost to God’s love.  For another prayer about God’s immeasurable and inexhaustible love, see Paul’s words in Romans 8:38, 39.)

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