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We need not be alone

An elegant pair of cardinals was perched at my feeders this morning, looking for an early breakfast, when I realized that the suet holder hung empty and the cache of sunflower seeds was depleted.

I debated about going out into the cold that early, but I couldn’t bear to see them go away hungry, and it was just a matter of time before the chickadees would begin to arrive. And that is how I ended up trudging back and forth from the garage, hair uncombed and wrapped in my robe, braving the frosty air to stock the feeders, all the while thinking how comical I must look.

It’s easy to give way to that kind of behavior when you don’t have neighbors living close by! While we truly enjoy living in our peaceful and private wooded setting, we are very thankful for our family and friends who are such a vital part of our lives.

During the past year, we’ve all been forced into varying degrees of social distancing and isolation that have sharply impacted us — from our shopping and dining experiences, to our interactions with neighbors and coworkers, to our relationships with our family and friends — everything has been changed. What was expected to last a few weeks has been extended over and over, as we’ve all grappled with how to navigate a pandemic.

You may be familiar with “Alone”, the extreme survival show, on which survivalists are dropped off into a harsh and rugged country by themselves with limited supplies and severe winter weather soon approaching. They must rely on their own skills and mental fortitude to survive as they forage for food, build a shelter, and fight potential predators and the elements.

One thing that soon grips each contestant, and with which they continually battle, is the deep sense of loneliness and the constant longing to be with family and friends.

God did not design us to be alone! We were created as social beings and are meant to live in relationship and community. Isolation is very difficult and can take a tremendous toll on us. Nationwide surveys have found “increasing rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts during the pandemic.” Many people report feeling a constant sense of stress, which causes an increased production of stress hormones, and affects us both mentally and physically.

We have been through a very traumatic season and desperately need a time of healing — emotional, relational, physical, and spiritual healing. Our community needs to heal — and our nation needs to heal.

I pray that 2021 will be a time when we lay down our swords, so to speak, and show kindness and brotherly love toward one another. There is absolutely no room for mean-spirited attitudes and accusation, or aggression and violence toward our fellow man.

May I suggest that God’s Word, the Bible, contains the exact wisdom and guidance we desperately need for such a time as this?

“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 5:29, 31-32)

“Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” (Colossians 312-15)

Jesus offers us His peace, “I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)

The worst kind of isolation, but one that is often overlooked, is separation from God, our creator. For all who willingly receive His forgiveness and mercy through Jesus Christ, He promises to be a faithful Father, and adopt us as His sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18).

Furthermore, He promises to never leave us or forsake us.

We do not need to be alone.

Michelle Smith serves alongside her husband, Gary, as part of the leadership team of New Life Christian Fellowship. She founded Purely Women Ministries with the purpose of helping women of all ages discover their true identity as women of God. A fifth generation Alpena native, she counts it a privilege to live in northern Michigan and enjoys flower gardening, canoeing, rustic camping and all things outdoors. She can be reached at church@newlifealpena.org. 

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