My bride and I have been watching over the past several weeks the television series called “Alone”. In this takeoff and modification of the highly successful “Survivor” series, each season marks the daily adventures of 10 individuals (in one season, there were 10 pairs of individuals) who are strategically placed in wilderness spots of isolation, alone with the goal of lasting the other nine contestants. After two weeks of intense training, these 10 individuals were deposited in their unique environment with only one instruction: “Every moment you are awake, you are to record your experiences through the provided video cameras. That means the good moments, the bad moments, and the in between good and bad moments as well.”
Each participant is given a two-way radio through which they may “tap out,” meaning that they can initiate a withdrawal from the game in which rescue personnel come quickly to take them out of their campsite and withdraw from the context. They were permitted to bring with them 10 items of their own choosing apart from the video equipment. These items they brought with them were objects like sleeping bags, tarps, rope, fishing line, hatchets, knives and flints. They were given no food, water or shelter, were allowed no firearms, and left totally alone to fend for themselves.
The winner is the one who outlasts all the other participants in this project. But they have no way of communicating with the other participants so they never know when or if they are the last.
In each season of the series, over the course of the 10 or 11 episodes in the season, there were two major reasons for the contestants to “tap out” and give up their quest for the prize money. One was starvation. The contestants had to fish, hunt, trap and otherwise find their own food, no matter what the weather or availability of food sources. They had to be creative in their search and figure out ways to get around the natural hazards for getting whatever food they could, often ranging from big game (moose, wolverine, etc) to berries and spiders and leeches (yuk!).
But the second factor was one you might naturally expect to see — loneliness. More often than not, the individuals found themselves missing their family members, oftentimes the very ones for whom they sought to win the program’s prize money in the first place. That loneliness was what caused them to say, “Enough is enough” and eventually tap out.
Have you ever been lonely? Have you ever been so lonely you wanted to “tap out?”
I believe the loneliest I have ever been was many years ago. As a recent graduate from The Ohio State University, I found myself in a strange city, beginning a new job, and knowing practically no one. While the people I was meeting at work were great people and good to work with, it did not take me long to realize these were not necessarily the people I wanted to spend my spare time with. I did everything I could to stay busy, but often spent evenings after work home alone in a very quiet and somewhat dreary apartment.
When desperate, I would go out searching for friends and, as the song says, “looking for love in all the wrong places.” I became more and more depressed when those things did not satisfy my need (they never do). One night, when I finally reached what I felt was the bottom of my depression, I decided to pull out my Bible and begin to read something there. In my little New Testament, which I had always kept on my bookshelf (I never read it before that night), I discovered a page that said: “Where to turn when you are …. lonely.” There were two passages listed. One was Psalm 23, a very familiar psalm which I could almost quote from memory. But the second passage was a passage from the Gospel of John.
In John 15:13, I read, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” But it was the next verse (actually the first four words of the next verse) that really captured my heart that night. There I read, “You are my friends…” When I read those words, I realized that indeed I had a friend in Jesus, all my sins and griefs and loneliness to bear. That night, I turned my life completely over to the Lord and have not regretted it since. I have not been lonely since then either. He is an ever-present, ever-listening, always-there kind of friend, just the one I needed at just the right time.
Bill Crowder, in his book “My Hope Is In You”, offers some very powerful words of wisdom on this subject. Words which each of us need to listen to: The Bible promises that those who believe in Christ will have a companion on the journey to help, encourage and strengthen them in whatever may come their way. He is the One who promised: “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
He is our sanctuary. To be able to have this confidence is to live a life that is an exclamation point in a world of question marks.
So the question today is: Are you living a life that is an exclamation point? I hope so!
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at [email protected]