The solitary confinement that prisoners sometimes undergo as punishment is cruel. Our self-isolation isn’t, but does feel a tiny bit like it at times. Most of us, however, are in our homes and have all the comforts we usually enjoy. Those who do have those, need to be thankful.

Nelson Mandela, in his autobiography Die Wit Man, wrote about his solitary confinement experience in prison. We may be able to learn from his story. He wrote:

“I was locked up for 23 hours a day, with 30 minutes of exercise in the morning and again in the afternoon…There was no natural light in my cell; a single bulb burned overhead 24 hours a day…I had nothing to read, nothing to write on or with, no one to talk to. The mind begins to turn in on itself, and one desperately wants something outside of oneself on which to fix one’s attention. I have known men who have taken half-a-dozen lashes in preference to being locked up alone.”

Mandela went on to talk about the relief brought about when an insect appeared from a crack in the floor and he had something he could watch—something to keep him company and preoccupy him.

That small insect kept him going.

Unless we keep busy and focus on something outside ourselves, our self-isolation could take on some of the qualities Mandela experienced. It could lead to depression—that state of mind when all seems dark and you have a hard time doing anything. Depression forms an emotional prison of its own. We will need more than a small insect to keep us going.

Simple pleasures that will preoccupy you can reduce your sense of isolation. It’s helpful to reach beyond yourself to others and to other activities. Pick up a hobby that you previously might not have had time for. Call a friend and together share how abnormal life has become. You might be able to encourage each other.

If you desperately need to talk to someone and you’re not feeling close enough to God to turn to him, don’t be afraid to call the crisis line. They’re available twenty-four hours a day and they’re trained to be compassionate listeners. You don’t have to be suicidal to call. Find the number for your area by googling “crisis line.”

King David, a person who was familiar with the sense of isolation brought on by depression has given us a treasury of psalms to read. They’re good for all moods, but especially when we’re feeling low. Even when he describes his fear of going down into “the pit,” he almost always ends by showing his trust in God’s love and protection. The trust he shows, will encourage our own. Psalm 13 is especially good for a person in a deep pit of a place. If you like it, you might want to read it in its entirety in your Bible.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

Psalm 13:1-2,5-6

In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells about her life in a concentration camp during the war. She includes a wonderful line: “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

One of the songs we sang on Good Friday was How Deep the Father’s Love for us. Here it is by Austin Stone Worship Live.