Isolation

I really like being with people, but I also like to have some quiet time in order to process what’s gone on. Being amongst people from different backgrounds who don’t understand where you’re coming from and don’t necessarily say things the same way you would – it can be hard, and if I’ve had one of those difficult days, I like to come home, flop onto the sofa and get into a book that’s going to lift my mood. Sometimes I get far more encouragement and strength from reading a book by someone in my situation than I do from people who’ve never experienced it.

The problem comes when my four walls become my safety net. I’m tempted sometimes just to be around family and close friends, and not to bother with anybody else. After all, no one can upset me if I’m not there, but here’s a Bible-verse that really hit me earlier in the year: “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire” (Proverbs 18:1). So it’s saying isolation is selfish? I always thought of it as unselfish. If I’m feeling fragile, I won’t go, they won’t upset me, I won’t fly off the handle and everybody wins … but that’s not what the Bible says. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2).

Brian May (my hero as a teenager) said once: “If you’re hardened off, you’re not living,” and he’s right. I have to let people see the real me – not just me when I’ve got it all together. “The fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is … self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Fruit needs a chance to grow. If I choose to be with people and let the growth happen, surely that can only be a good thing.

Have you ever been tempted to isolate yourself? If you’re unable to leave the house, what ways have you found to connect and grow?

The Truth About Self

This week’s Tuesday at Ten prompt is truth – that thing that’s so vital in processing what we hear, so we can live our lives well. Jesus said: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life”, which is why it’s so important to find out what He thinks about us and our lives.

Lately, I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about self. As an example, here’s a quote from a friend’s update on Facebook:
“Apparently happiness has replaced goodness. We all strive for what will make us happy, to fulfil our desires, to satisfy our needs & dying are the thoughts for doing good. Its all about us. Praying that I’ll change my selfish ways to wanting to make a good choice, to please God with my actions instead of pleasing myself. Happiness only lasts for a time but doing good lasts forever.”

At first glance, this might give the impression that all God wants is for us to do good, paying no attention to our feelings and having no thought for ourselves or our happiness. I admire people like my friend, who’ve given up some of their own comforts to accomplish something greater for God, but I also love my friends dearly and don’t want to see them working themselves into the ground whilst forfeiting their happiness. I’d rather see them work less and smile more, but does Jesus agree?

Just today, I listened to a radio-programme about self-obsession, and the presenter said: “The whole point of following Jesus is that it’s nothing about yourself at all” – again, same impression. If I took just these two quotes on their own, I might be left wondering if God really cared about me.

“I am the Way and the Truth and the Life,” says Jesus, so let’s look for the truth in God’s Word. “God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to Him” (1 Peter 5:7), and one of my favourite verses: “The LORD be exalted, who delights in the wellbeing of His servant” (Psalm 35:27). God delights in our wellbeing – mine and yours. If I had to make a judgment about God, I’d say He’d rather see us work less and smile more too.

Of course doing good is important. “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). “Let us not become weary in doing good” (Galatians 6:9). Doing good is essential to the outworking of our Christian faith, but not at the expense of our joy. I was just thinking about the phrase: ‘Find your joy in the LORD’. Where do you think it’s used in the Bible; in connection with working for Him?

Actually, it’s used in connection with Sabbath – with God’s day of rest. “If you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD” (Isaiah 58:13-14).

There were two sisters who were friends of Jesus while He lived on earth: Martha and Mary. Basically Martha beetled about trying to get everything done, while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to Him. Jesus said Mary had made the better choice (Luke 10:42). Perhaps, rather than striving to do good or striving for happiness, our life’s goal should be intimacy with Jesus. Out of that will come everything else we need to live our lives for Him.