Loneliness has been a growing problem in our country for years. Those of us on college campuses feel it acutely. While a lot has been said and speculated about what feeds this problem, it seems likely a combination of the desire for affirmation, the fear of rejection, and the inability to connect with others (whether because of circumstances, lack of ability, or apathy) all contribute. Then you add in the nature of social media, the immaturity of ourselves and others, and a world-wide pandemic, and suddenly it’s even more crushing. I think we’re all there right now.
As you seek to fight against the difficulties and temptations that come with loneliness, let me point you to two ways the Gospel overcomes them.
First, the Gospel gives us identity in Christ. The Gospel tells us we were not made to be alone but to be with God and others. That was the blissful state of Adam and Eve in the garden, but sin has fractured our world, and now we are vulnerable to being abandoned or isolated. And yet, beautifully, the heart of the Gospel is that Christ did not leave us in our sin but came to us. He came to save us from more than just loneliness but from our sin. If we can turn and trust in Christ to save us from being isolated from the presence of God and held captive under his wrath forever in hell, then we can trust him to be with us in the isolation of being far from home or being “held captive” in the quarantine. The Gospel reminds us Christ will never leave us or forsake us, no matter how difficult our circumstances may be (Hebrews 13:5-6).
This Gospel identity guards us from running to the things the world offers as solutions to our problems. The Apostle John warned us the world can only offer us things that feed the insatiable lusts of the flesh and eyes or that build up pride in our possessions. All those things are passing away, but the one who walks with the Lord remains (1 John 2:15-17). Instead, run to the Lord by spending time in his word, bringing your needs to him in prayer, and praising him with a thankful heart even in the midst of trials.
Secondly, the Gospel gives us community in Christ. Beyond the spiritual realities I just mentioned, Christ also graciously gives us physical community in the church. We should never underestimate how much we need to be around other believers, but we should especially avoid that now. We should be wise in how we do that during a pandemic, but we should avoid intentional personal exile. The Gospel tears down the barriers the world would use to segregate us and instead binds us together in Christ. Paul taught the Galatians this truth in Galatians 3:28 and then commanded them to do the hard work of investing in that community in 6:2.
So be intentional about finding a local church here in Fayetteville. Don’t just attend services (in person or online), but intentionally work to connect with other members there. Not just the other college students but also those much older and younger than you. Yes, you need college friends right now (and they need you!), but it will also be really beneficial to your soul to spend time with a saint who has loved Jesus three times as long as you’ve been alive or with a child who’s excited to play games and hear Bible stories from you.
The hardest part of isolation is when you feel like no one else can or will make the effort to connect with you. That hurts, and sometimes the pain can be overwhelming. But the Gospel calls us to and then enables us to find our identity and community in Christ. In this season of loneliness, seek out the Lord and his church. He is here for you and we want to be too.