Alone: What the Television Show Taught Me About Our Current Situation
The History Channel has been running a hit series, now in its seventh season, called Alone. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to watch at least one episode just to witness a fascinating human experiment on the mental and emotional breakdown that happens when people are, you guessed it… alone.
Sounding eerily familiar? Sounds like the past 7 months of COVID.
The premise is human survival in some of the harshest conditions on earth. Participants are given 10 items they get to pick for their survival along with the clothes on their back and a camera to document their daily trials. They know how many other contestants there are, but they don’t know where they are or if they've tapped out.
The goal? Outlast everyone else.
The prize? $500K
The cost? More than all but one were prepared to pay. If you’ve had enough, all you got to do is hit the GPS tracking unit and a helicopter is on its way to pick you up. You can go back to normal. Back to people. Back to civilization. The show is quite riveting, and I was struck more than once by how many parallels there are between the reality tv show and the reality tv show we seem to be stuck in called COVID.
Here are some parallels I saw while watching a few episodes (I didn’t make it through a whole season…well, maybe I skipped ahead to the final episode to see who won).
1. We were not meant to be alone.
Just ask the contestants. Some of the people go crazy. I’m telling ya: People. Do not. Do. Well. Alone! They freak out. They start hallucinating, they start talking to themselves (has that happened to you, yet? :). They try to recall what “normal” was like but they can’t remember. All they can think about is the people they don’t see anymore. And that’s what is so fascinating. The contestants encounter wolves, cougars, bears, and a host of other animals that could eat them. They’re cold, wet, hungry, and miserable… but that’s not what breaks them. What breaks them, what causes them to tap out, what makes them give up the half-million dollars is this: the silence. Being alone. No one to talk to. No human contact. No one. Just you and your thoughts.
It’s the same with you and me. This forced isolation we’re experiencing has caused and will continue to cause the rise of all the wrong stats: increased divorce, depression, suicide, pornography, debt, and declining health both mentally and physically.
If this global crisis has taught us one thing, it’s this: People do not do well alone. People need community. People need human touch. A hug. Connection. To have another human being place their hand upon you and pray for you. Human contact was God’s design, so it’s no wonder the enemy is using this to separate us even more.
2. We are more resourceful than we know
These people aren’t CrossFit athletes. Most of them look like they haven’t seen the inside of a gym. But each person dealt with bigger problems than you and I face on most days: finding water, making a trap, building a shelter, starting a fire, killing game, preserving meat, surviving a rainstorm or rapidly changing climates. They deal with dysentery, leg cramps, wounds, and wolves. Most of us don’t know where our limit is until we’re forced to dig deep enough to find it. The ones who make it are those that come to the end of themselves only to find out there’s a little more to give.
It’s true for us as well. You can make it. You can. And you have something far greater than any survival tool they have: you have the Spirit of God living inside of you. And when you reach the end of yourself that’s when you get to the beginning of His strength. “To this end, I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” (Col 1:29)
You got what it takes because Christ is in you. So don’t give up. Much more than $500K is at stake here. Don’t hit the button.
Michael Hopf says,
“Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.”
These are great times to be living in. These times will cause us to pray, to think, to innovate, to lead in ways we never have done before. It will cause us to dig and reach deeper in our faith than had this never happen. So let’s embrace it.
3. We are more fragile than we know
Grown men cry. CRY. That alone is worth watching. And why? Because they can’t stand being alone. In the first few episodes, one man breaks his leg. In another episode, one guy hears wolves surrounding his tent at night (the helicopter was on its way the next morning). People come to the breaking point much sooner than they thought because they weren’t prepared for what was going to happen to them.
Similarly, I think every one of us has realized how fragile everything is. Our freedom, our security, our bank accounts, our relationships, our government, our country, our world. We aren’t as stable as we thought we were. But here’s the truth: God is shaking things up so that what cannot be shaken will remain (Hebrews 12:24). We needed something like this. We needed the reminder that only what’s done for Christ will last — only what’s done in His name will remain. Only what’s built on the Rock of Jesus Christ will survive the storm. So don’t give up. Don’t be surprised when everything crumbles. In these fragile times, let’s cling to the sure Foundation.