For the last four years, my education has been online. Taking online college courses has allowed me to accelerate completion, spend months abroad for service, and schedule work without issue. I learn through reading and writing, and that's what online education is. It works remarkably well for me.
However, there is one major drawback.
There are no real classmates. There is no camaraderie. Several schools have made strides by utilizing forum discussions and social media connections, but it falls short. I cannot watch my seatmate's facial expression as she hears the news of our upcoming test. I cannot borrow notes from the guy next to me when I am lost. I want to celebrate our successes together. I want to grieve our bad test grades together. But it is just my computer, my professor, and me.
Obstructed vision of people in the same experience can lead me to believe I am the only one. I am the only one struggling with this chemistry assignment, I am the only one to turn in my assignment a day late, and I am the only one that earned an A on a test. Because I cannot see anyone to share my experience with, it is easy to assume they don’t exist.
God created us as beings who need connection (Genesis 2:18). Experiencing life without meaningful connection can lead to exceptional loneliness. Although it is true that each life is unique, there is still nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), but loneliness causes us to forget this. The devil can use perceived loneliness against us. Here are two examples.
First, we often feel alone when bombarded by trials.
A teacher with disrespectful students, a parent with a whiny child, and a couple who fights all have something in common: they're not alone in the least. The devil strives to isolate us for the same reason a lioness isolates a gazelle: isolated prey are easier to kill. Similarly, “the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:9). The devil has the same goal for every single trial: get our eyes off of Jesus. Then, we are easy prey.
If convincing us that we are alone in suffering is the way to do it, then he will use loneliness coupled with pain. But Peter gives the remedy. While we “resist” the devil, and stand strong in the faith, we must know “that the same sufferings are experienced by [our] brotherhood in the world” (v. 10). Part of striving onward is awareness of our shared experiences. Remember the brotherhood in the world.
Second, we feel alone when tempted and when we sin.
In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul assures us that “no temptation has overtaken [us] except such as is common to man.” Then why do we feel ostracized when we let our mouth run, go back to that screen, or fall into that sin?
Same strategy, different focus.
If the devil can cause us to feel like the worst of the worst, maybe he can convince us that Jesus’ blood is insufficient. Maybe he can convince us to not even try. The devil cannot strong-arm us off of Jesus, but he can convince us to let go.
Do not let go.
Paul, stricken by remorse for killing Christians, stated, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). Are you a sinner? Jesus came to save you. We have “an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous,” and “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 2:1; 1:9). Your struggles are common to man, and Jesus will uphold you and forgive you.
Lord, please guard my heart from the idea that I am alone. You are with me. And I have a brotherhood of believers around the world that understand. Thank you.