I ran across a TV series last year titled “Alone.” It consisted of 10 contestants who were each taken to remote parts of the world. The objective was to survive as long as they could alone and the winner would be awarded $500,000.
As I was watching a specific episode, the guy who I was hoping would win had a huge “alone” moment within himself. The reason I wanted him to win was because he had such resolve and the most amazing attitude. He pushed himself mentally, emotionally, physically and even spiritually as he endured the most difficult terrain and harsh elements, often while going weeks without hardly any food. But his great attitude never ended—and it was contagious.
As I watched him week after week, I found myself feeling what he was feeling, and actually putting myself in his place. It became personal for me to cheer him on and empathize with him each and every week.
At one point he completely broke down, but it wasn’t the lack of food or the harsh elements that were pushing him over the edge. He finally had realized how alone he felt. As he wept, I actually cried with him. I could feel his pain. He shared how he missed his wife and children desperately.
What was most beautiful to me about that moment in the show was I think he realized for the first time in his life he was not meant to be alone. He actually admitted that he needed his wife and children. They had always been there but he didn’t realize how much they meant to him until they weren’t there. It was such a powerful moment. I got the feeling that he would go back to his family and his connection would be completely different.
As I thought so much about that scene, God began to talk to me. I realized how many times in my life that I have felt alone just like he did, even though people were all around me. I coach people daily that feel this way, and it makes me realize why God said in Genesis 2:18, it is not good for man to be alone. He wasn’t just speaking specifically about marriage, he was speaking about all our relationships.
God’s emphasis was that we need people. He has made us relational beings who need to be connected to people—and yet, it’s entirely possible to be surrounded by a group of people and feel completely alone.
I pray that the words that I’m writing penetrate your heart so that you realize how much you need the people who are in your life. This man on the “Alone” show realized how much his heart needed connection with those he loved. He reached a place where he understood that the only thing that’s important in our lives is what really matters—people.
Now, I don’t believe we have to live through a painful experience like he did for God to show us the critical role people play in our lives and how much we need them. But I believe we need to learn why we feel alone when there are people all around us. It’s because of a closed heart.
We have the potential to completely shut people out and isolate ourselves as though we were all alone on an island just like that man. When we do this, it’s often because we have been hurt by someone we trusted.
Despite what we’ve experienced in the past, God said that it is not good for us to be alone, but I would say it this way: It’s not good for you to shut people out. When you close your heart and shut people out, you also are shut in. When we have people all around us, yet we shut them out, we are alone.
It’s time to open your heart again. Yes, it can be scary because it requires being vulnerable, but to be honest, to live with a closed heart, shutting people out, is much scarier.
God created us as relational beings, and there’s many reasons that we need people and they need us, but let me explain a very important purpose. I’ve been through so many times in my life in which I have faced extremely difficult situations that were very hard to walk through. I’m sure you have too. There were times when I would pray and cry out to God for answers, and even ask him to give me grace and open my eyes. I remember Mark Hankins, a minister friend of mine, saying something once in a church service that really impacted me, and I never forgot it: “If God has placed the answer to your prayer on the inside of another person’s heart, then you will have to get it from them.”
Wow! That made me realize how God prioritizes my connections with people and how it influences His plan for my life. He wants me in relationship with people to help me.
Now, let me clarify that it’s not our responsibility, not my responsibility, to try to find those people, but it’s our responsibility to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we do that, we will be in the right place at the right time with the right people doing the right thing—and we will have the connections we need in our lives. So just with that understanding, you can see how critical it is that we not shut down, close our hearts, and push people away.
Now my next statement is beautiful and it took me years to understand this: When God sends the answer to your prayer through another person, He actually sends Himself. I’ll give you an example in my own life of what I mean.
Years ago, when I was in my early 20’s, I had a job working in a Christian school. I worked mostly with the high school age classes. I loved every minute of it. One day the principal called me in his office. He was known to be a very hard person to deal with. So, needless to say, I was really nervous to meet with him, and he definitely didn’t start off our meeting with any small talk. He jumped right into his intentions. He was removing me from the high school class and I would no longer be coaching the basketball team. Instead, I would have a special room the size of a walk-in closet where I would help kids who had reading challenges. His reasoning was that he had opened the door to my classroom earlier and saw all of us praying over someone. He never asked me any questions about “why” or gave me an opportunity to respond. Had he given me an opportunity to speak, I would’ve told him about a tragedy that just happened in one of the boys’ lives. The young man specifically asked if everyone could please pray for him. Although it wasn’t the norm to pray in the middle of the day, I wasn’t about to turn down his request. After all, we were a Christian school!
That was a very dark moment for me. I felt humiliated, discouraged, angry, confused, and yes, alone. I missed the kids so much. They were so confused as well but I knew it was the right thing to do to not say anything. I was numb for probably a week. I could feel my heart wanting to close and shut down. I didn’t really want to talk to anyone. I felt so alone even though there were people all around me. I did my best to keep a smile on my face for those teenagers who I loved. But to be honest with you, it was very painful passing them in the hallways day after day. The thoughts I was thinking were not good thoughts. I was constantly rehearsing everything in my head and it felt like a non-stop battle.
But finally, I opened my heart and literally cried out to God for answers and His help. It wasn’t long before a friend of mine that I was very close to came to talk to me. She knew a little about the situation but not much because I had not talked very much at all to anyone. But when she opened her mouth to share with me, I realized she was the answer to my prayer. She had wisdom for me, love, and understanding. The things she shared were simple, but exactly what I needed to hear. She admonished me to not close my heart because the end result would be bitterness and unforgiveness. As we talked, I could feel God’s love for me and that He already had a way out for me.
Our conversation would’ve seemed like a very simple one to someone listening, but to me, it was the answer to my prayer. It was as though God was speaking to me in words behind the words she was speaking. I could sense Him just in the atmosphere of the conversation. It wasn’t anything spooky, like where I got chill bumps, but it was peaceful and calm, yet powerful. It was probably a month from that day that I was reinstated back into my high school classes and I was also once again a basketball coach.
As I’m writing this blog and looking back on that situation, I cringe to think of how different my life might have turned out had I shut my heart. God is right, it is not good for us to be alone.