Friday, January 1, 2010

10 Miles Down A Dirt Road

I work with a woman who used to be married to a man who owned a ranch in Nevada. She had some.... interesting stories about her time out there and invariably started every tale ~ or mentioned it somewhere in the narrative ~ that they lived "60 miles from town and 10 miles down a dirt road."

Now, that is isolated!

While almost every tale was humorous, I was always reminded of the isolation of where she lived. It was well outside of what I would call the stop-by-for-a-visit zone. While I don't know the details of her former marriage, I know she learned nothing from her isolation but to rely solely on herself. It didn't even draw her and her (ex-) husband closer. She is a strong willed woman with a mile-wide stubborn streak who doesn't easily admit to any faults ~ although she believes she does ~ and has certainly never wanted to learn about the love and support of God in her life.

But, her situation ~ isolated in the deserts of Nevada ~ made me think of the lives of men in the Bible that God isolated for periods of time in different ways; Noah and Job who were emotionally isolated; Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were spiritually isolated; John the Baptist and Paul who were physically isolated. These are only a small selection of people in the Bible who were isolated for periods of time, but God was using their isolation as a teaching tool.

Noah and Job's emotional isolation was from people they'd known and loved for most of their lives. People they'd relied on for support, people they could share their problems with and from whom they believed they would receive loving advice. These same people turned their backs, mocked their efforts and told them their problems were their own fault. In Job's case is was even worse because the woman he loved, who had sworn to love him for the rest of her life, turned on him all her grief and bitterness, urging him to curse God and die. Yet, both men refused to believe that God had abandoned them and continued to trust in His goodness.

Daniel and his friends were spiritually isolated when they took an unpopular stand for obedience to the teachings and laws of God in a land of spiritual degeneration. A stand that could have cost them not only their own lives but the life of someone they considered a friend. Yet all four men trusted God to keep His promise to bless them in their obedience to Him.

John the Baptist and Paul each found themselves physically isolated ~ in the desert, I might add ~ from everyone and everything the knew. This was not a permanent isolation, but it was for a long period of time. For most of us, physical isolation from those we love ~ even from other human beings ~ would be extremely difficult. It's even been known to cause severe mental distress in people such as depression, anger, anxiety and panic attacks. Yet, God used this time to teach these men and they allowed themselves to respond properly to that teaching.

God placed these examples in the Bible for us to read about and ~ hopefully ~ learn from. To learn to rely on God for support in every area of our lives ~ emotional, spiritual and physical. These various situations could have worn these men down if they'd turned away from God. When we rely solely on ourselves ~ or even those around us ~ we can find ourselves in a self-inflicted quagmire of confusion. Trying to "follow your heart" ~ or instinct or nose or however you want to phrase it ~ is dangerous. The Bible tells us in Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"

God, however, has clear answers for us in our lives. The problem is sometimes we allow ourselves to get so busy ~ or complacent or lazy ~ we can't (or don't ~ or won't) hear what God has to say. So He has to isolate us. Maybe it's physical isolation, but instead of sending us "60 miles from town and 10 miles down a dirt road" He sends us to a hospital. Pretty hard to run from Him when we're flat on our backs.

Maybe it's spiritual isolation. My sister is blessed in her job, her boss and co-workers are all Christians. Most of us are lucky if one or two of our co-workers are saved. Perhaps God will give you a co-worker (or two) who thinks "all Christians are the worst liars and hypocrites." It's one way to make us take a close, hard look at how we live our lives as Christians. Are we a true example for God? Or do we say one thing and live another. There's an old saying, "Your walk talks so loud, I can't hear what you say." What is our daily walk with God like?

Perhaps it will be emotional isolation. We all have times when we're lonely, feel misunderstood or become depressed. It happens, it's part of the emotional make-up God designed into our psyches. How we handle it decides the outcome of these emotional battles. Do we turn inward? Have a "poor-me" pity party? Or do we turn to God?

In all of these situations of isolation, God wants us to turn to Him. Learn to rely on His strength and love. Spiritually, His Word strengthens our foundations so we can follow His directive in Ephesians 6:13b-14a "...and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore," Physically, we can rely on His strength in our weakness. Physical limits are no limit to Him if we give our physical limits to Him. Emotionally, only He can understand our weepings, our depressions, our fears when they threaten to overwhelm us. He knows our fears, hears our pleadings and weeps with us.

Are you spiritually, physically or emotionally "60 miles out of town and 10 miles down a dirt road?" If so, are you going to whine about the isolation and rely on your own stubbornness or use it to draw closer to God?