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I believe that there are times in all of our lives when we feel isolated. Sometimes it’s our feelings that isolate us and sometimes, our circumstances. Moving to a new culture can be a time of circumstantial isolation, especially when one moves to a place where there is no one else who shares the same worldview as us (in my case, North Americans, or even Westerners).
Living in India has been an isolating time for both John and I. I’m working through some of the same feelings I had when I moved to Italy and knew no one there. I hardly even knew the girl I went with. There are things we do to fight the loneliness and pain of isolation. Perhaps we dive into pursuits such as reading, writing, art, or movies to numb our feelings. Perhaps we call up old friends on the telephone, email, or browse the web. These things are definitely not wrong in and of themselves, but we are avoiding the root issue—

“Why these feelings of isolation, God? Can’t you just give me some friends?”

Does God want us to be or feel isolated?

lone flower

We may think, “Well, that doesn’t seem to make sense. After all, God created us as social beings and even travelled and lived with friends of His own when He came to Earth in the form of a man. He had social needs that were being met; shouldn’t mine be?”
Surely, out of everyone, God knows our needs more than anyone—including us. Now I’m brought to a place where I question whether God is allowing me to feel isolated, and if so, why?
The nine months I spent in Italy was a difficult time for me in many ways. Though I’d lived in another culture before (Mexico), I had the love and support of my family to help me through my feelings of isolation and culture shock. I didn’t have that in Italy and I felt like I was stumbling along on my own and, at times, blundering terribly. I knew my parents loved me and were praying for me, but they were thousands of miles away. In the first couple months, I found myself continually clashing both internally and outwardly with my housemate. I felt ALONE.
So what happened? Circumstances led to a painful move in the very middle of the internship just at the point when we were becoming better friends with our students in Campobasso. We moved to a place where we didn’t really know anyone and felt horribly misunderstood. Did I get angry? Yes, I did—I got angry at the circumstances and sometimes with the people—but not at God. He became my constant source of strength and encouragement. He also developed a beautiful relationship between my internship partner and I, which would have never happened if I hadn’t drawn close to Him and seen a piece of His heart. During one of the more difficult times, He gave me a picture in my mind of being refined by the hardships. I ended up drawing the picture and called it The Fire. The period of isolation I went through was a time of refining. I can look back and rejoice that it happened.
Now I am here again. Yes, I have my little family with me, but John is struggling with the isolation even more than I am. However, I want to shout out that my heart is filled with joy. Many times I am lonely with only Aria for company, but I feel the overwhelming presence and touch of God in my heart in a way that I haven’t experienced since leaving Italy. God is my source of joy and delight. He is my source of companionship. Though I miss friends and know I’ll make more someday, I sense that this is His time. He makes all things beautiful.

4 Responses to “Isolation”

  1. Jessica
    March 18th, 2006 19:30

    that was beautiful and true, a word to me just when i needed it.
    love you,

  2. Rachel
    March 20th, 2006 05:06

    I’m glad that what I wrote was able to bless you. I am encouraged by some words that King David once wrote: “Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice.” (Psalm 51:8). I think that God gives a special gift of joy to those who come to him broken and needy.

  3. Rae
    March 21st, 2006 23:38

    Top off isolation with culture shock and parenthood and you have what might be the most challenging thing you could go through! Crazy. Chinua’s year in Korea was the hardest of his life, and he even had a stroke from the stress of it, but his three most beautiful songs were written there. Beauty from ashes. I’ll be praying for you guys.

  4. Rachel
    March 22nd, 2006 00:54

    Thanks for the prayers and encouraging words, Rae. What a beautiful example of how God spoke to Chinua in his time of brokeness and loneliness. God’s ways are definitely mysterious and above our own. It helps to be reminded of this.

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