Longing for a place of comfort with people who know you.
During my first month at college, I was immediately swept in a wave of action. I was easily adjusting to new class schedules, interesting classmates, engaging professors, and independent life. But then one morning, I had the random thought that I would never wake up to spontaneously go shopping at sporting goods stores with my dad and my brother. And just like that, a longing for the familiar overwhelmed me and I spent the next hour crying and journaling. But other than that one instance, I didn’t feel homesick during my first semester. I was loving the newness and excitement of college.
Then I went home for Christmas break. I ignored the fact that I had to return and waited until the very last moment to pack. After a glorious month at home, I walked upstairs to my dorm room, opened the door, and was awash in loneliness. My hall mates were all so excited to be back, and all I could think about was how much I wanted to go home. I sat outside to read and journal, yet every time a family passed me I was in tears again. When my roommate finally came back, we both ended up sitting on the floor, crying and sharing memories from break. The next mornings as I woke up, loneliness overwhelmed me. I questioned a lot. How was last semester so amazing? Why was everyone else so happy? How could I ever be an independent adult like this?
As the weeks continued, I began getting connected again. I remembered why I love my college. My schedule filled with classes, homework, lunch dates, and activities. Yet despite all the happy moments, when my roommate and I look at each other, we know—there’s a longing for the familiar place where we felt loved and accepted.
So how do we handle the homesickness? How do we learn to be content when we are lonely? Where is God in the homesickness? As I’ve processed and learned to cope, here are a few of the things that God has revealed to me.
Give yourself time to mourn. For so long I tried to ignore the feelings until I simply could not anymore. It is okay to cry. Tell yourself that. Crying is not a sign of weakness. Grief is not a sign of weakness. They are signs of humanity. Perhaps not as drastic, but you are walking in the shoes of the Israelites. Change is hard. Acknowledge that. You will grow and overcome as you accept that you miss home.
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion… How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:1, 4).
Dwell in God’s presence. As I’ve processed my feelings of homesickness, I’ve realized that the only reason I feel lonely now is because I know what it feels like to be unconditionally loved and fully accepted at home. I have talked to many a friend whose break was filled with tension, quiet, and being alone. I have so many reasons to be grateful. And even when I feel lonely, I am never alone. God knows me deeply and loves me unconditionally.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
Focus on your relationship with God—pray, worship, read. In my season of loneliness, these things fill me up when I am empty.
Find ways to stay connected at home. Even though I am away at school, I want to stay invested in my family. We have weekly Skype sessions that are an intentional time to share life together. It’s almost like having a family supper! Something new that I have just started is memorizing Scriptures with my family. Dwelling on the same Scripture is a way to stay on the same page even when we are apart. Find a way to connect regularly with home and then be purposeful.
Make the most of your time, right where you are. I have the temptation to wish the time away until I see my family again. But God has placed you and I where we are for a reason. One way my roommate and I have stayed engaged at college is by making a list of goals/activities to give us something to look forward to in the upcoming months. We wrote out goals for the semester, such as people we wanted to talk to and habits we wanted to form. We also made a list of fun activities for the upcoming month, filled with restaurants to try and places to go. Having a “game plan,” renews hope for the future.
Switch up your perspective. As a culture, when we think of missions we often think of going overseas and leaving the comfortable. But God calls us to be a witness right where we are. For me, college is a sacrifice as I’m leaving my family and the familiar. I’ve started viewing college as my mission field. College is the prime time to share Jesus’ love with people. As I think about how college is an opportunity to share Christ, it gives me a sense of purpose in leaving home because suddenly it’s about God and not about me. Wherever you may be, focusing your eyes on Jesus will switch your attitude about the situation.
But you are my witnesses…You’re my handpicked servant. So that you’ll come to know and trust me, understand both that I am and who I am.” (Isaiah 43:10)
And God is the faithful and the consistent. When you’re feeling homesick, hold onto this promise: “I the Lord do not change,” (Malachi 3:6). Lean into Him. He will hold you.