Crowded Isolation

I recently heard a man talk about his commute in a large metropolitan area. It would take him two hours to go from one part of the city to where he was working. He decided that it might be best to take the metro transit light rail. He found out it only took him 30 minutes to get to his workplace and he saved 3 hours of time in travel in one day. He also thought it would be a great opportunity to get to know some people riding the same metro transit at the same time.

While he was traveling through his city on the light rail, he realized even though it was a fairly crowded space and there were many people he could potentially talk to and get to know, they all had earbuds and were looking down at their handheld devices. No one was interacting with each other; there was very little communication. He realized later there was a name for this phenomenon: “crowded isolation.”

We can be among many people and still be isolated from one another. So much is grabbing our attention, yet often what is getting our attention is predominantly negative. The world seems like a more threatening place to live. There isn’t much around us or what we hear on the news that tell us there is hope and things are getting better. Many have become frightened, anxious, depressed. Worse yet, people have lost their desire to live. Much of this is not founded on baseless fear but because of a grief experienced, pain, and a true sense of loss. Many have experienced isolation—a feeling that the world around them is out of control and there
is a sense of anger because it is not getting better.

Jesus was anticipating the time when His closest followers would abandon Him and that He would be delivered over to the Romans to be killed. It was a difficult time in the first century, and their world was very unstable. Jesus said these words to His followers, “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:32-33 (NIV). Jesus assures His followers that even if they are scattered and they leave Him, He is not alone. His Father is always with Him. He also encourages them that in the midst of a world of trouble, in Him, they will have peace. He is encouraging them that the Father would be with them too. They can be encouraged because He has overcome the world.

Why is this so encouraging? First, because Jesus has overcome a world of sin, death, and evil. You may ask, “But why are we still seeing these things?” Well, Jesus not only died for our sin but He also was raised to life and someday will come again to conquer all sin, death, and evil forever. Yet right now, through what He has already done, He gives us inner peace, joy, and hope  this world cannot or will not ever give. Jesus promises that in this world of trouble, He will be with us and never leave us. No one can steal the peace that Jesus gives when we trust Him. Every foundation the world has built has never been able to fix the human condition. Everything in this world is temporary but God has prepared a way through His Son, Jesus, to take away our sin and give us new life now and forever. When Jesus does that, He begins to grab our attention in a new way and we start seeing with new eyes. We see that we don’t need to be isolated any longer. We begin to look around and see that God has made us for relationships, first with Him and then with others. He created us for relationships and to encourage one another as we follow Him on this journey through life.  Let’s remember that Jesus has overcome the world. It may not be easy now, but when you trust and follow Him, you will have the hope and strength of His presence now and also for eternal life to come.
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Mark Anderson