Junior year was one of the toughest in my life, largely because for the first time I went through moments of experiencing the crushing hurt of loneliness. I’ve always appreciated having time to myself in the past. I liked being alone because I could just be – without having to engage with another person. What I didn’t realize was that I had never truly been alone before. Growing up in a family of six was comparable to growing up in a home that always had a little party going. Until I was six, my three siblings and I all shared one bunkbed in one tiny bedroom. I loved sleeping sandwiched between my two little brothers, and I remember being happy I didn’t have to sleep all alone on the top bunk as my older sister did. Eventually, we ended up moving into a house with enough space to accommodate four growing teens. Our ‘new’ house had an open floor plan with a central family room that became the hub of all the excitement and activity. Even now, I never want to retreat to my own room but would rather spend all my time out in the family room.
When I left for my freshman year of college and again as I boarded the plane for my sophomore year abroad in London, I thought I would have a tough time transitioning because I was so used to living in a crowd from within my comfort zone. I was genuinely surprised at how easy it was for me to thrive in these new situations. Sure, I missed my family and friends back home, but the relationships I formed abroad filled me with such a strong sense of community. We did everything together.
It wasn’t until I returned back to campus as a junior that I realized how dependent I had become on the physical proximity of other people in order to feel fulfilled. Although I lived in an off-campus apartment with three amazing friends, we all had such different schedules and were rarely home at the same time. I was attacked by feelings of loneliness for the first time, and I hated it. The added stress of a busy life only made things worse. Though these periods of loneliness were bleak and difficult, I can now see how God used them to increase my dependence on Him. I have discovered that there is value in times of solitude because in these quiet moments of despair we can choose to run into the arms of our Heavenly Father and openly cry out to Him over the turmoil within our hearts. God hears our misery and sees us even when we feel unnoticed. We can take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus, being fully God and fully man, experienced the ultimate feeling of isolation. He was forsaken by the Father on the cross, so we never have to be.
When we feel lonely, it’s important to remember that God is at work and we are not forgotten. We can always access direct relationship with our Helper and Maker, who is familiar with all our ways. Periods of isolation can be used to bring glory to God if we intentionally use them to draw near to Him and be filled with the Holy Spirit. We can depend on God because He is ever faithful and He Himself is everything we need (Psalm 16:5-11). Satan uses isolation to fill our heads with lies, but we need to refute those lies by opening the Word and speaking the truth of the One to whom we belong. May we depend on God to sustain us for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7) and promises to never leave us alone (Deut. 31:6).