The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly [John 10:10 / NKJV].
“I don’t deserve to be happy.” “No one could possibly love me.” “I’m not good enough.” “I’ve made too many mistakes.” Have you ever heard anyone say these things? More importantly, have you ever said or thought them? Well I certainly have—and I suspect I’m not alone.
Single adults spend quite a bit of time in isolation, alone from others. Without the companionship of a spouse, or on the off-weeks when children are not around, singles shut themselves up in their homes alone. They eat at restaurants alone, sit in church alone and go to the movies alone. To further the isolation, they exercise alone with earphones so no one bothers them.
During these “alone times,” what happens? If you’re like me, all sorts of crazy thoughts enter your mind.
Shortly after my divorce, I was in a new city with no kids, no job, no friends, no church, no support group of any sort. That is when the mental attacks started.
Talking Down to Ourselves
- Blaming ourselves for our isolation: “I have no one because no one cares about me.”
- Proclaiming ourselves failures: “It’s all my fault my marriage failed.”
- Convincing ourselves we’re not worthy of happiness: “I’ve made too many mistakes in my past; I don’t deserve to be happy.”
- Leading ourselves to believe God doesn’t care about us: “Since all the bad things in my life have happened, God must have allowed them—He must not love me or He is punishing me for who I am.”
- Sometimes, we even contemplate suicidal thoughts: “I can’t live like this—no one cares, so why should I?”
In addition to our self-defeatism, we have an enemy who doesn’t play fair, who attacks us at our weak moments and in our most vulnerable place. Satan attacks us like a vicious, hungry lion (1 Peter 5:8). He spends most of his time accusing us before God – bringing up our weaknesses and past mistakes (Revelation 12:10). If Satan is bold enough to accuse us nonstop in front of God, surely we should expect his sneaky attacks on us individually. And when do you think he whispers his mess in our ears? Definitely not when we’re with a group of people worshipping in church! He attacks us when we are alone.
Personal testing and temptation usually happen in isolation. After calling fire down from heaven, Elijah became depressed and suicidal in the loneliness of his dark, clammy cave. Jonah pitched a solo temper tantrum and asked God to kill him. Satan chose to sorely tempt Jesus when He was alone and fatigued in the wilderness.
When we isolate ourselves, we play right into Satan’s strategy. He isolates, then shoots his accusing darts of doubt, low self-esteem, unworthiness, blame, guilt, and others. In the absence of friends or family members who truly care about us, who would challenge our self-deprecating thoughts, we begin to actually believe his false accusations.
As a survivor of both mental and isolation attacks, here are some tips I’ve learned to fight back.
How to Overcome Negative Thoughts
- You and you alone control your thought life. No one else is responsible for your mental wellbeing, so don’t blame anyone else. Analyze each of your thoughts – then determine if it has a positive or negative effect on you. Toss the negative; dwell on the positive.
- Your thoughts affect your feelings. Have you ever walked into work feeling just great – until one or more coworkers asked if you were feeling okay? The more they suggested you looked sick, the more you began feeling chills and body aches. Such is the connection between thoughts and feelings. So stay away from negative or depressing thoughts or settings. Listen to upbeat music. Watch comedy or slapstick movies. Instead of dwelling on lost loves, think about the wonderful people in your life now. Do what you can to maintain a cheerful atmosphere.
- Spiritual warfare begins in the mind. Romans 8:5-7 clearly outlines the difference between a spiritual mind and a carnal mind. “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” The battle rages on – the side you feed the most, wins.
- Capture your thoughts. Willfully “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Don’t mindlessly wander. Purposefully think uplifting thoughts.
- “Think on these things… Is it true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy? (Philippians 4:8). When dark thoughts cloud your mind, view them through the lens of these characteristics.
How to Conquer Isolation
- Get outta bed and off the couch. The lethargic and mundane routine of isolation leads to loneliness and depression. Toss the remote control. Get up, get busy, and stay busy.
- Get and stay involved in a group setting. Church groups, community groups, charity groups, neighborhood watch programs, school volunteers – there are many people-facing opportunities to enjoy. Find one that fits your interests and abilities and commit to being there.
- Create your own social network (that has nothing to do with technology). If you can’t find a group you like, start your own. A reading group, biking group, professional group, gardening group – whatever your interest, start an interactive group with likeminded people.
- Invest in yourself. Use your “alone time” as an opportunity to improve yourself. Pursue a degree, commit to ongoing education for career enhancements, find a new hobby, start a new exercise program. In doing so, you may also find more likeminded friends.
- “Watch your six…“ Pay attention to your habits. If you find yourself slipping into your old routine of going home and “hiding” in the bed or on the couch, prompt yourself to get back at it. Find an accountability partner, then hold each other responsible get out and participate in life.
Consider life a spiritual battleground. You’ll be stronger and win more often surrounded with fellow soldiers than by fighting in isolation.