Prairie Madness

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

—Romans 15:7 

The Homestead Act of 1862 gave 160 acres of Great Plains land to anyone who could withstand the rugged living conditions and extreme isolation for five years. Europeans, who had been renting tiny flats in overcrowded cities of the East, flocked west for the opportunity to own land.

Thrilled by the open spaces, they set up their cabins as far as they could from their nearest neighbor. The decision to go it alone took a terrible toll, especially on the women. Most of these settlers had come from small villages with a great sense of community. Long winters on the prairie made travel impossible, and after months of isolation, men and women often came down with prairie madness—a mental breakdown caused by such isolation. And it ended the dreams of many homesteaders.

Cases of prairie madness dwindled when settlers began to build their cabins close to other land owners. When neighbors helped neighbors withstand the West’s harsh conditions, a sense of community grew, and the lonely land wasn’t so intolerable anymore.

With today’s improved transportation and communication, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could feel isolated. Yet the more time we spend behind screens, the lonelier we can feel. Most of us have scrolled through social media and realized we weren’t invited to a party or family gathering. Many of us have been jealous of a friend’s vacation pictures or craved the close connection that others seem to have. It’s easy to feel left out and alone and then to withdraw further into ourselves.

Jesus knew what it was like to be isolated. Before He began his ministry, He spent forty days and nights in the wilderness. There He fasted and was tempted by the devil. When He left the wilderness, He called His first disciples and began to build a community.

This same Jesus knocks at our door with an offer to befriend us. He understands the pain of rejection and the danger of spending too many winters alone. He’s set up a community of fellow strugglers not far from where you live. Move your cabin close. 

Today’s One Thing

If you don’t have a church family, find one. Search the internet for a congregation of believers near you. If you have a church family, look for a way to become more involved.


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