The film, Nomadland, won the 2020 Academy Award for best picture and is based on the non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder. The film starred Frances McDormand (also a producer) and is directed by Chloe Zhao. It is the story of a woman who has lost most of her possessions, family, and hope and her search to regain happiness. She becomes homeless, living out of a van, and travels from one temporary job and nomadic community to another or any place she can find comfort and connection that can satisfy her soul.
As I watched the film, my heart hurt for the real people who are wandering and lonely in our world today because God created us to be His friend and be in relationship with Him and with others. The film reveals that groups gather today to talk about how to live with their loneliness and survive alone at various deserted locations. Those attending had no lasting relationships except perhaps with a pet. They were forced and now choose to stop depending on and trusting others. The nomads live in fear of being disappointed and abandoned again, either from broken promises or past relationships that ended for various reasons.
When you live in fear and don’t know God as a personal friend, everything in life can seem hopeless. Fear of the pain of loss keeps you from trusting in people fully. It is easier to keep others at a distance and not get hurt and rely on yourself. It becomes a way of staying in control of the world around you. You are your best protection and your own boss of your emotional and spiritual life. But guarding your heart leaves you isolated. Isolation then leads to depression and loneliness. It is precisely where the deceiver, Satan, wants you to be – in a bottomless black pit.
Interestingly, this group of nomads loves the beauty of nature and the open sky. They are in awe of God’s creation and are drawn to Him through it but don’t even know it. There is no one there to lead them to that understanding of who the great Creator of heaven and earth is and the One who can comfort their lives when pain and suffering erupt. The audience of the movie senses their despair, and it resonates. We have all been there. We have all felt isolated and lonely at some time in life. It is longing to know our Creator’s love and the place He promises where all tears will one day be wiped away – Heaven. I believe that audiences are often drawn to these films because we can relate to them personally. As we begin to emerge from the recent pandemic, many see themselves wanting to just take to the road and leave their challenging responsibilities and troubled relationships behind. The film allowed viewers to glimpse a kind of life that seems to be freeing and even perhaps romantic. In reality, we are created to connect, and in the first book of the Bible (Genesis 2:18), God tells us “That it is not good for man to be alone.” He made us to be in relationship, and His love and comfort are just a breath away.
Here are two ways to move out of desolate places.
One, worship God. Speak out and thank God for His presence. Breath in the Holy Spirit. He is our Comforter. He is our advocate and guide in this world, and He will lift your heart and mind to a better place. Turn on some praise music and sing. Sing loud and strong. It dispels Satan, the liar, who comes to drag you into the dark pits of this world. Open the Bible and ask God to direct your eyes to what He wants to teach and tell you. Immerse yourself in the Bible.
Second, pray for others. We are called to get our eyes off ourselves and to remember. Remember the plight, challenges and struggles of those who, in most cases, are much worse off than we are. When our eyes, hearts and hands stay busy with others, our lives are made whole. Sometimes it is full of the suffering of others, but it comes with the knowledge that God is on the throne, and joy comes in mourning. Joy comes from the unexpected and the miracles of God, and we are to wait for His directions patiently. He will never leave or forsake us.
When you find yourself in that lonely, desolate place, remember to worship God, pray for others and rejoice. This world is not your home, and you aren’t ever a nomad alone in it.