Stuck and Isolated, or Set Aside with Purpose?

With all the talk about sheltering in place in recent months, and difficulties some found with being “stuck at home,” some Christians became discouraged and self-focused, grumbling about many things. 

Before I had much opportunity to complain, the Lord reminded me that I was being set aside for His purposes. “I still have work for you to do,” He seemed to say.

I thought about others forced into isolation or “stuck at home” for many reasons beyond the pandemic—a mom with a newborn baby, a disabled person, a man in prison, a neighbor without a car, or an elderly couple—all Christ-followers who feel somewhat stuck in their situation. 

I wondered, “Lord, are all these people shut away with an eternal purpose?”

Isolated, but Inspired

Sometimes the Lord isolates people to inspire them to emerge with fresh vision. He uses the simple circumstances of life to draw us into a deeper walk with Him and a renewed desire to live for Him. 

When I struggled with blood cancer throughout 2019, so much of my life shut down. But He used that “time out testing” to remind me to wisely use each day He has allotted me (Ps. 90:12, 14). 

The Bible offers many examples of people who were isolated for a time, but were inspired by God to obey Him in wonderful new ways. 

  • Joseph was released after a number of years in prison and rose to a high office in Egypt. God used him to help the Egyptians survive and to preserve a godly seed (Genesis 37–50). Joseph testified that God intended it all “for good” (50:20).
  • Jonah endured three days and three nights in time out in the belly of a fish, but he emerged to obey God and preach a message of repentance to the Ninevites (Jonah 1:17; 3:2–10). 
  • Jeremiah and Daniel experienced tough trials of isolation—Jeremiah in a sewer pit and Daniel in a lion’s den. When Jeremiah emerged, he boldly preached; and when Daniel was delivered, he proclaimed his final prophecy (Jer. 38; Dan. 6). 
  • Paul experienced house arrest for two years. Though he wasn’t released—he was executed—he wrote encouraging epistles during his house arrest (Acts 28:17–31). 
  • Jesus’ disciple John was isolated on the Greek island of Patmos, and during that remarkable time, he wrote the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:9–11).

We need to ask God for wisdom when we feel isolated or stuck in tough circumstances (James 1:5). His will may be that He has set us aside for His purposes.

The mother of young children might feel isolated, but God is giving her a ministry to the next generation. A frail and elderly home-bound woman might feel useless until God gives her the vision for a powerful personal prayer ministry. An incarcerated prisoner might feel set aside and hopeless until the Lord reveals a unique ministry to other inmates.

Perspective and Prayer

Prayer helps us know God’s perspective. In “time-outs,” we might pray for endurance in suffering or discernment in confusing situations. We can pray about and repent over sinful attitudes and actions, asking God to help us become more like Jesus. We can pray for those who are hurting.

During the pandemic, my prayer life ramped up for our nation, churches, homes, and so many in need. Don’t discount prayer as a lesser service. Intercession is a powerful way to serve God in ways we may never fully understand. 

Surrender and Serving

I struggle to serve sometimes. I’d rather teach, encourage, or give. But serve? Can’t I leave that to others, Lord?

During the early days of the pandemic, some made excuses for apathy, laziness, and indulgence. “This is awful,” they rationalized. “I deserve some pampering.” While quarantined—and feeling like I had all the time in the world—I also became a little selfish with my days. It was easy to plan time for hobbies, reading, writing, and gardening. But time to serve others? It took intentional surrender. 

Then, as if God opened my eyes, I saw many ways to serve in my neighborhood, through social media, and by using my teacher and encourager gifts. Through serving, I can deny myself and follow Christ into the ways of sacrifice (Matt. 16:24).

Courage and Caring

One of the ways to help others while set aside is through caring notes and cards. We might hesitate because we think we’re not “good writers;” but if God asks us to write—or even to call someone on the phone—let’s obey and leave the results to Him. Timely advice is lovely; and God calls us to speak truth in love, encourage, and build up (Prov. 25:11; Eph. 4:15; 1 Thess. 5:11). 

Sometimes it takes courage to show people we care, because we wonder if they will question our intentions. Often when Jesus helped others, those who followed Him misunderstood His actions. The disciples didn’t understand why Jesus decided to go through Samaria—a continuous source of aggravation to the Jews—but the Savior’s love compelled Him to intentionally and courageously reach out to a rejected Samaritan woman (John 4:4–43).

While set aside after a stem cell transplant and full of joy over the goodness of God, I shared an encouraging note with a friend. For some reason, she accused me of being “on a pedestal,” thinking I was better than her. With her own inner turmoil, she couldn’t believe I simply loved her. Later, when her personal crisis passed, the Lord reminded her of my note and softened her heart. Her attitude toward me changed, and she was thankful I reached out.

Hope and Hospitality

I discovered many ways to offer hope. While in double quarantine with the COVID-19 pandemic and also with low immunity, I found ways to practice hospitality—even though no one entered my home. 

Hospitality is normally defined as the friendly, generous receiving and entertaining of guests, visitors, or strangers. It takes a little creativity when we’re isolated at home, but we can practice hospitality in reverse. Instead of friendly, generous receiving, we can practice friendly, generous delivering

The Bible instructs us to show hospitality without grumbling, and hospitality might involve sharing food, drink, clothing, visits, and other encouraging resources (1 Peter 4:9; Matt. 25:34–46).

While we might not be able to leave our homes to make those deliveries, others who have that freedom can help us. We might make a meal for a neighbor or send a Christian video to a shut-in along with some homemade cookies. We could share canned goods with a church food bank, clean out closets to find good clothing or shoes for people in need, or send a book to an inmate. 

Good hospitality includes good conversation too. Heart-to-heart chats might not be around our dinner table, but a heartening chat on the phone might lift someone’s spirits and give us opportunities to help them know more about the God of hope and peace (Rom. 15:13).

Gratitude and Giving

One afternoon as I cleaned out a cupboard during the quarantine, I felt such gratitude. I realized how abundantly the Lord supplied all our needs. That evening, I saw an email about people starving in a Latin American country. Some had not eaten for ten days. Even in my city, many lost their jobs and needed the basics in life. How can we who have so much give so little?

Churches had ongoing needs from the beginning of the shutdown, and I smiled to hear how many Christians stayed faithful—joining with brothers and sisters in Christ to gratefully continue supporting the churches that fed them spiritually. Churches were able to continue sending donations to their missionaries and to reach out to help many in the community through food distribution and other shared gifts.

Even while stuck at home, Christians can cultivate giving as they increase their attitude of gratitude. After meeting responsibilities to home churches through tithes and offerings, Christians can impact global ministries with their checkbooks. They can also assist ministries that offer hope with biblical truth—ministries like Revive Our Hearts!

In Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth asked this question: “Is the gratitude that flows out of your life as abounding as the grace that has flowed into your life?” In time-outs and isolation, we have time to reflect on the grace and goodness of God, and we can renew our commitment to seek His purposes and obey His will.

We’re not stuck. We’re set aside for God’s glory!

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About the Author

Dawn Wilson

Dawn Wilson

Dawn Wilson and her husband Bob live in Southern California. They have two married sons and three granddaughters. Dawn assists Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with research and works with various departments at Revive Our Hearts. She is the founder and director of Heart Choices Today, publishes at Upgrade with Dawn and besides writing for TrueWoman.com—she also writes “wiki-type” answers at Christianity.com and is a regular columnist for Crosswalk.com. Dawn occasionally travels with her husband in ministry with Pacesetter Global Outreach.

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