Fear and Isolation
Fear is not something that happens only to the weak. All of us experience fear. In fact, if we are honest most of us know what it is like to go through entire seasons of life driven by fear. On the one hand, we do not want to be overly hard on ourselves for this reality. After all, nearly every hero of the faith in the bible had to be told at some point to fear not, and nearly every book of the bible has at least one fear not verse in it. Obviously this is a very common experience! On the other hand, it should be noted that scripture deals so heavily with the issue of fear because it is one of our greatest enemies and we most confront it diligently.
In the book of Revelation we are told that the ones who overcome will inherit God and all of His blessings. However, the first ones mentioned in the list of those headed for the lake of fire are the cowardly (see Rev. 21:7-8). Why is fear so dangerous and overcoming it so critical? One reason is that the first thing that fear does in our life is drive us to a place of isolation. When Elijah ran in fear from Jezebel he found himself in a place of isolation (1 Kings 19:4-5). We know this is a bad situation for two reasons. One, Elijah wanted to die. Two, from the very beginning of creation we are told that it is not good when man is alone (Gen. 2:18).
Occasional isolation is not a bad thing. It is extended periods of isolation that become destructive, as well as isolation driven by fear, which is what Elijah was experiencing. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray. Throughout Christian history scores of believers have practiced solitude as a spiritual discipline. Withdrawing often brings about time of refreshing and pulls us close to God. So, a good question to ask yourself if you are uncertain if a period of solitude is the good kind or bad kind is, “Am I headed toward God or away from God right now?”
Again, being isolated in fear is something that will happen to all of us. Elijah was a great prophet who had just been used by God to accomplish an incredibly powerful miracle. Before that we read him telling a widow to “fear not” when she had no food (1 Kings 17:13). So, if it can happen to Elijah, who obviously knew not to fear, and who witnessed such a powerful move of God, then it will most likely happen to all of us.
So, how does one escape the dead end street to which this leads? First, it is important to go back the way you came (1 Kings 19:15). You must retrace your steps and find the place from where you departed. C.S. Lewis once said that the wrong path will never become the right path. If you find yourself off the path you cannot simply start on the path from there. You must go back to the place where you left the path and restart from there.
Second, to stay on the path you must stay focused on the area of your gifting (see 1 Kings 19:15-16). Elijah was a prophet. Prophet’s speak the proceeding words of God and anoint prophets, priests and kings. So, that is what God told him to do.
Finally, realize that you are not alone (1 Kings 19:18). At times we feel like we are the only ones fighting in the battle, but this is never true. God has always enlisted other faithful servants. Simply having our perspective changed and eyes opened to this reality can give us all the strength we need to go back where we came and focus on our area of calling.
I love that quote by C. S. Lewis. I’m currently doing a book study on Mere Christianity on my blog. I think you are right in what you say. Fear and even isolation are unavoidable, but staying in those places can be destructive. We live in a “worship alone” culture where people confess to be a Christian but worship at church sporadically or in the comfort of their own homes (watching a service on tv or a webcast). We have no commitment to the local body of believers. I want to encourage anyone reading this to seek out a local church, where the Gospel is regular preaching and suffering is acknowledged as an unavoidable part of life.
Thank you for posting and allowing me to comment.
Thanks, Josh. I agree, finding a local community of faith in which one can participate viably in the body of Christ is crucial. And I look forward to checking out your study on Mere Chrsitianity.
This is a really great blog! And a refreshing reminder that fear and isolation is a killer in our walk with God!