God Purposes in ISOLATION


Isolation is one of the core tools God uses to

shape the life of a leader.

God uses times of Isolation in the formation of all of His followers, but especially in the lives of leaders.

Isolation processing refers to the setting aside of a Christ-follower from the normal routine of life, ministry and/or or leadership involvement. Sometimes it means complete separation from activity for a period of time.

But other times it can mean being isolated from those that surround a leader, and from their typical routine, even though they continue on in the day-to-day. You can be in isolation, and still be in a crowd.

Isolation processing occurs for a sufficient period of time in order to allow for evaluation, re-assessment and greater surrender to Christ in the life of a leader. in the isolation direction is clarified, purposes are re-defined, and values are deepen.

Isolation often drives a leader back to basics: Who we are, what we really know, who God is, what He wants from us, etc.  Isolation causes a leader to re-affirm that which really matters— and often go after that which is driving the driven-ness, and dig deeper into the issues that could be the “problem” behind the problems.

A person in isolation often does not feel the presence of God. What they use to rely on to get to God, no longer works. The familiar becomes unfamiliar.  It is very much an alone time; a desert-like, spiritual condition.

Are you in Isolation?

The vast majority of leaders will experience a significant time of “isolation” at least once in his or her journey. It happened to Paul. it happened to Moses. It happened to Joesph. it will happen to you. (Dr. J. Robert Clinton, Isolation Processing). Isolation surfaces the need for paradigm shifts. A leader needs to experience God and their circumstances in new ways.

There are two types of isolation experiences — involuntary and voluntary. In either case, leaders typically will experience four-workings of God — stripping, wrestling, deepening and releasing, propelling them into the new future.

Isolation processing can also be used to launch a time of transition.  The entry phase of a transition is often filled with confusion, restlessness, lack of clarity and diminished confidence, taking a leader into Isolation. 

Isolation means struggle for me.

I am a people person. When I (Terry) go into isolation I can tell things are not right. So I try to deny the isolation by ramping up my relational “loudness,” only making matters worst. Putting a label on it has helped. Instead of fighting God, I try to go with what He is doing, and “be still, and know He is God.”

In her book, Isolation, Shelley Trebesch relates three fruitful results of isolation experiences.

1. Inward Transformation – Isolation often begins the process of breaking and stripping a former identity ans the subsequent realization of the new, and even greater identity. Joseph, Moses and Paul are prime examples of this process.

2. Spiritual Transformation – People coming our of isolation experience a renewed spirituality. They know that their faith and God’s faithfulness does not depend on circumstance, but God’s character. The Scripture state over and over again, that God was with Joseph (Gen. 39:2,3,21,23)

3. Ministry Transformation – Isolation often produces greater “voice recognition.” Its results in leaders better trained to listen to, and trust the voice of the Good Shepherd. Consequently, leaders are trained to not chase their own agenda and their motives for serving are refined.

“The one who responds to God in isolation processing is a different person afterwards, living life more maturely and ministering out of being.” (Trebesch, p. viii)

© Terry Walling / 2013

17 thoughts on “God Purposes in ISOLATION

  1. This is quite interesting. Your post was forwarded to me by my coach, Ed Hird. Years ago, when I was doing my M.Ed. my focus of study was transformative learning. As it was a secular study, I never got around to researching the spiritual side of transformative learning or how the experience might be different when God is included, however, I always had spiritual transformation in mind as future research.

    You have certainly hit on many aspects of transformative learning.

    I plan to read more of your blog as I also did a certificate in coaching.

    • Hey Bob! Thanks for the reply and the comment. Our focus are very similar. It does appear that the transformation experience and the learning process are key to the transformation of the leader. On the Spiritual side… helping individuals go deeper in their understanding of themselves and God provides a greater transformation in that leader. Love to hear more!

      • At the center of what initiates the process of transformative learning is a disorienting dilemma due to a situation that does not meet assumptions. With the learner set off balance they then go through stages of critical self-reflection on assumptions leading to a re-orientation. That’s a bit over simplified. I always felt that this might be part of what leads some people to salvation. In terms of a believer, I guess we could all use a jolt at times to lead us closer to God.

        • Really interesting. A lot of similarities. God uses people, events and circumstances to shape and form our lives. Isolation Processing, and Transition periods are almost exactly what you describe; disorientation, evaluation and time of alignment and surrendering to God’s deeper/greater work, and then new direction (re-orientation). And yes… all of us need a jolt from time to time. If not we will stay stuck!

  2. This explains my life for the past five+ years. Thanks Terry. I’ve heard this from you before but reading it here is a gift. I feel myself pulling out of isolation and now looking back, I know its been a period of preparation for what I’m about to do. And the funny thing about that is my physical circumstances haven’t changed, it’s more internal than outward.

    • Last line is gold… “funny thing about that is my physical circumstances haven’t changed, it’s more internal than outward.” That’s God using it to take Shelly to a new place. As hard as it is… it’s worth it.

  3. Thanks Terry! I have read it twice and will probably read it several more times. I even shared it with a dear friend tonight. I see myself all over this but especially here: ” In either case, leaders typically will experience four-workings of God — stripping, wrestling, deepening and releasing, propelling them into the new future.” I have felt the stripping away and now wrestling through the hard stuff.

    • You are welcome Chris… but I also feel the pain of stripping. Hard, but it does promote the challenge of the wrestling and the deepening. It will do the deeper work. Its just not fun. And the prize will be you! Proud of ya Chris for going the journey. Praying for you both!

      • Hi, I just came across this website and I’m glad I did. I know God is calling me into ministry but the last 4 years have been very hard. Constant sickness, depression, isolation. Reading this page has made a lot of sense of my situation. I have questioned God about why this is all happening to me?
        Through this journey of the last 4 years every one of my negative traits have come to the surface and it has not been a nice experience. But if God is going to use me then I have to just except his perfect will for my life and man up.
        I have often said to God why me? This is all getting to be a little too much for me to handle but I’m still here and still going. All I want to say is you have encouraged me to keep going as God has something good for me just around the corner.

  4. Hi, Neat post. There is a problem with your web site in internet explorer, would check this IE still is the market leader and a large portion of people will miss your magnificent writing because of this problem. eefddegaegkd

  5. Would God call me to leave my church and family and hometown and everyone I’ve ever know so that I can find security in him? Everyone in my life says that my thought is not from God but you think isolation is good. Is this gods call?

  6. Also I feel that God does not want me to go back to my family or friends. I have to totally ignore them for the rest of my life is that true?

  7. This REALLY spoke to me, thank you so much! I’ve been stripped of the family unit that I’ve created, and it’s been EXTREMELY LONELY and HARD for the past 2 years. This reasoning has been whirring in the back of my mind, but God led me to your article and now I realize that what I’ve been thinking is actually true. I’m really being FORCED to be alone now. I only get my son a few days a week, and even my current boyfriend I can only see 1-2 times a week if I’m lucky! I also don’t have a full time job and am low on money so I have to stay at home most days. So God has really stripped out my time so I can be ALONE! Now it’s up to me to “purpose” that time and focus on HIM.

  8. Hello, I am 22 years old and God isolated me. Thank you this and I can totally relate to all you wrote. I am growing with Him and its very hard but its also southing and beautiful. I am getting to know another side of God.

  9. I feel better after reading your article, and I am excited to enter the “deepening” phase of my isolation (now that I understand what the heck is going on). I can’t wait to figure out what my real purpose is so I can put it in action 🙂

  10. Thank you for this article, so encouraging.

    Moses, Elijah, David, John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, John the Beloved — some of the most recognizable heroes of the faith, and all driven into isolation in a wilderness at some point in their lifetimes.

    God, give us strength to hold on, and to enjoy this reprieve with you before emerging once more into the foray.


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