Last year, a friend’s daughter was on the television reality show, Survivor. For those of you who don’t know, Survivor places approximately 20 individuals from different backgrounds in an isolated setting where they must work together to make shelter, gather food, and to win various rewards, all while trying to build alliances so as not to be voted off during the next all-group meeting. At least one person gets voted off the island during each session. The only way to be sure a particular contestant will not be voted off is for that person to possess and then play a rare “immunity idol” that everyone looks for during the down time. Mere possession of an immunity idol is not enough. Since most idols can be played at any point, the person holding it must make a strategic decision to use it immediately or hold it for later use when the contestant might feel more vulnerable to being voted off. An immunity idol can be used only once.
The particular season that I watched was called “Edge of Extinction” because contestants who were voted off the island in Fiji were actually taken to a different island, to wait on an abandoned beach with the hope that they may actually get a chance to return to the main island to compete. They could also quit the game at any time to be whisked away to a luxury resort to wait out the end of the game.
As was inevitable, contestant #1 was voted off the island. After the vote, she voluntarily chose to go to the more isolated island with the goal of getting back into the game at a future date. This is the part that fascinated me. Within one day—one day—she was hopeless. She grumbled nonstop about how awful it was to be alone and about the unfairness of her situation.
Fast forward to early 2020 when a novel coronavirus (now called Covid-19) entered the world stage and psyche. Initial reports mostly centered around a quarantined cruise ship where the virus had been found. Travelers were asked to stay in their rooms for most of the day, with an hour or two of outside exercise and sun. Some of them even had in-room balconies, all had unlimited Internet access, contact with the outside world, and full room service.
But what was the attitude of many of these quarantined travelers? Despair. Anger. Confusion. Even though they knew that their quarantine would soon end, they wanted out. They missed freedom and in-person social and familial interaction, even though they were with the people who had traveled with them (presumably loved ones and friends).
Everyone was eventually released, but the virus had already spread to the rest of the world where social distancing and lockdowns had begun. When it impacted my area, it took one day for one of my kids to complain about not being able to spend the night at a friend’s house. I think it took less than one day for me to miss running basic errands and going to the gym, the office, and church. It wasn’t like I couldn’t work out at home, rustle papers in my home office, and watch online church services. I just didn’t like to be made to stay at home and I missed interacting with others.
In addition to pointing out the obvious fact that people are prone to grumble and complain—something warned against in Scripture (Philippians 2:14; Exodus 16:8)—what can biblical counselors learn from this and share with others? First, the triune God is relational, and He made people to be relational (Genesis 1:26, 2:18-25). He made people for relationship with Him (John 6:40; 1 John 3:1). Whether isolated on an island, on a cruise ship, or in a house, people yearn for interaction.
Second, for those who are not in God’s presence for eternity, it will be awful. There will be no good human interaction in hell. Instead, the Bible describes hell as a place of eternal torment, a lake of fire, and of gloom and darkness (Revelation 21:8; Matthew 25:41). Unlike the guy who once told me that he wants to go to hell so he can “party with his friends,” the reality is that he will be separated from anything remotely resembling friendship. He will yearn for satisfying interaction that will never come. Unlike the contestants on the isolated Survivor island, there is no chance for him to get out of hell. And unlike those of us who are quarantined, there will be no end in sight for those in hell. Suffering and isolation from all of God’s goodness will go on forever. Perhaps the most awful thing about being in hell (besides being separated from God!) will be that each person will know that an “immunity idol” was available that could have saved them from this eternal isolation. But this freely available immunity wasn’t hidden in a jungle under a tree stump. It is found on the pages of Scripture. Immunity from the wages of sin is found only in Jesus Christ and what he did on the cross when he died as a substitute for those who believe (John 3:16). The decision to not seek and rely upon this gift will haunt those in hell forever.We can’t promise people that their circumstances will change, but we can promise them that by relying on God’s Word their perspective on those circumstances will change. Click To Tweet
So, what are biblical counselors to do with this? Look for ways to engage counselees in conversations about eternity. We can’t promise people that their circumstances will change, but we can promise them that by relying on God’s Word their perspective on those circumstances will change. What better way to help hurting people than to point them to a relationship with the one, true God who loves them and who has provided them with a free pass that covers all of their sin? When counselees ache over broken relationships, point them to the God of eternal relationships. When they feel lonely or isolated, point them to an eternity in God’s family. But let’s not wait until they are voted off the island and it’s too late. Tell them now. Jesus is the ultimate immunity from true isolation.