Everyone happens upon seasons of loneliness. Whether you’re in that weird season between high school and college, you’ve just arrived at your university, or you’re nearing the end of your college career and approaching graduation, it’s likely that if you haven’t felt the ache of loneliness yet, you eventually will at some point in your life.
This isn’t to say that all of life is doom and gloom, and you should be waiting for darkness to strike, but if you happen to find yourself in a lonely season, take heart because there are some things you can do and some helpful ways you can shift your thinking to start moving in the right direction.
Humans were created for interaction—in fact, it’s a need. Infants who don’t receive enough physical touch and interaction with adults have been known to struggle socially later in life and some even fail to thrive. So if we’re created with this need to be with people, why is it so difficult sometimes? Sure, humans can be frustrating, but community is a necessity, and it’s something that takes a lot of work, intentionality, and commitment.
So, what do you do when you’re feeling lonely? Here are a few ideas about where you can start:
1. Go to God
It’s easy to assume that your loneliness is stemming from lack of human interaction, and while that may be true, it may also be true that you need to be filling that wide, gaping hole inside with foundational truth from Christ. It’s easy to expect that people will be able to fulfill our every need, but if we’re idolizing our friendships and expecting the people in our life to perfectly meet the emotional needs we have, we’re going to be disappointed every single time.
We need God because otherwise, we forget who we are, and we forget what this life is about. Sometimes the Lord allows the other diversions that catch our eye to be stripped away so we can remember Him. He doesn’t do this to make us sad, and He certainly doesn’t do it because he doesn’t want us to have fun or because He’s selfish. Simply put, God knows that we’ll be healthier and more fulfilled if we’re finding our identity in Him first. We do need people—they are gifts from God; but when it comes to dependence, we need to hope in Christ.
2. Be a friend to someone else
When you’re feeling lonely, it’s easy to want someone to come to your rescue and make the loneliness go away. The thing is, there are lots of people in the world—many of who are probably feeling lonely just like you. Instead of focusing on what others can do for you, think about someone who could use a friend right now and reach out.
“And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10
Loneliness certainly feels like oppression, and if you can encourage someone else and help them know they’re not alone, you’ll find yourself feeling a little less lonely.
3. Be open to friendships you hadn’t expected
Sometimes the people we need are the last ones we expect. The Lord brings the right people into our lives at the right time, but often, they may not be individuals we’d normally choose as friends. When we keep a certain idea in our minds of what our friends should look like, it’s easy to turn away from perfectly viable potential friendships that are placed right in our path.
Consider your lab partner in science class, or that girl who lives a few doors down from your dorm room. Whoever it may be, be willing to at least give that person a chance before you decide they’re not for you. While it is important to have some mutual interests, don’t try to consistently search for friends who are exactly like you. We need people who will have strengths where our weaknesses are and vice versa. Sometimes what you need isn’t necessarily what you want at first—so be open! And be patient. The right friends will come along at the right time.