Written by Ricky Chelette, Executive Director
The New York Times recently asked students to talk about their experiences during the pandemic. Their feelings of aloneness were paramount in almost all the comments. This testimony by Sela Jasim, Branham High School, expresses well the isolation and desperation of many. “The coronavirus is having a pretty significant impact on me. Emotionally, it has also been very straining. My mom is a substitute teacher and she is out of work for the rest of the school year with no pay. I myself am missing my closest friends a lot right now, and feel lonely often.”¹
Isolation is one of the most damaging things that can happen to a person.
The experience of being utterly alone for long periods is devastating to the human psyche and body. Alexander Chouker, a physician-researcher who studies stress immunology at the University of Munich, said this about isolation. “Participants, some of whom were only isolated for three months, experienced changes to their sleep, changes to their immune, endocrine, and neurocognitive systems, and alterations to their metabolisms. “Being confined and isolated affects the human physiology as a whole.”²
Another adverse effect of isolation is feeling alone and depressed. Feelings of being alone can happen both with others or when you are physically by yourself. In either case, it is a mind-numbing experience that often leads to a lack of self-esteem and fatigue. Amid our COVID-19 crisis and mandated social distancing, many folks are isolating themselves in their homes for fear of contracting the dreaded disease. Though social distancing is necessary, isolation is not. Though we can’t necessarily gather in groups, there are lots of ways we can be connected. Participation in video calls, talking on the telephone, joining others in times of worship via online streaming media, etc., are all ways that we can connect with others and sense the presence of others in our lives.
Isolating can bring on depression and even fatigue. Fatigue leads to sleeping and disrupts our normal sleeping patterns. Without a sleep schedule, changes occur in circadian rhythms, and we lose the ability to acquire good sleep. We tire quickly, we lose focus, and we become lax in our guard against believing the lies of the devil. We become sad, depressed or feel alone, which leads to inappropriate ways of coping and medicating, followed by rounds of guilt and shame, only to find ourselves back in the cycle yet again.
But should the person who has Christ as a part of their life experience loneliness in this way?
As one who recently lost my spouse of thirty years, I can tell you that loneliness is real for the Christian as well as the non-Christian. I can tell you that isolating and lack of community with others can be depressing. I can even testify that these feelings can bring about changes in sleep and coping strategies that are neither healthy nor beneficial.
But I can also tell you that as a believer, there is a difference between feeling loneliness and feeling alone. Our Father promises, regardless of circumstances, that we are never truly alone.
When I came to know the Lord as my Savior, some 40 years ago now, God spoke to me very powerfully and said to my heart, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” I had no idea at the time that the words I heard were scripture, but they were. God spoke them about Moses and spoke them to Joshua (Joshua 1:5). Jesus made a similar promise to His disciples upon His departure from this world (Matt. 28:20). And the writer of Hebrews again reiterates the message to God’s children who faithfully follow Him in 13:5-6. When we believe in God, He becomes an abiding presence in our lives.
Amid every trial and difficulty in my life, I have found God to be faithful to His promise. His presence is near, though sometimes hard to experience, in my most difficult moments. Even as I stood at the side of my wife’s bed as she breathed her last breath, I felt the Lord again remind me that He was with me. Present. Able. Capable of empowering me with His Spirit to press through the pain, the hurt, the confusion, the loss, and find Him and His purposes on the other side. He is faithful, and He can be trusted.
Though our days of social separation seem never-ending, and our anxiety and uncertainty are high, we have a God who knows not only the future, but He knows us. He knows what we need at this moment, and He is more than capable of meeting those needs if we let Him. We are not alone. He is with us. He is as close as our breath if we will call upon Him. God is eager to meet you where you are. His promise is true: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Embrace the presence of God with you in these days of isolation so that you know that you are never alone!
¹ Engle, Jeremy. “How is the Coronavirus Outbreak Affecting Your Life?” The New York Times: March 20, 2020. Accessed on April 14, 2020. www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/learning/how-is-the-coronavirus-outbreak-affecting-your-life.html
² Ellis, Emma G. “What Corona Isolation Could Do to Your Mind (and Body).” Wired Online: March 25, 2020. Accessed April 16, 2020. https://www.wired.com/story/coronavirus-covid-19-isolation-psychology/