How to develop, deepen and care for Friendships
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What comes to mind for you when you hear the word friendship? Someone’s name? An experience that left you doubting? Maybe a smile spreads across your face? Does your idea of friendship differ from mine? No question. In fact, the reality is, for me at least, it differs for all my friendships.
I confessed recently to a new friend that I struggle in the friendship area. In hindsight, I now wonder if she thought I was warning her. I suppose maybe I was in a sense trying to convey that I'm far from having the whole friendship thing figured out but wanted her to know that I will give it my best. Maybe she thought I was just being real. Vulnerable. I was. It was just a statement. I was simply letting her in and sharing a real struggle.
Lately, I find I'm constantly chiding myself that I should know the answers to the friendship mystery that most women struggle with. Shouldn’t I know by now, for crying out loud? Why don’t I have the mystery of friendship solved? I mean I'm <cough> years old! Why do I still have trouble in this area?
How to develop, deepen & care for friendships.
I recently shared with you about a book we read in our book club. Rachel shares in her book, Girl, Wash Your Face that women most ask her about how to “make, keep and cultivate real and valuable friendships.” I want to explore that a little with you today. And hopefully help us both.
Is friendship a struggle for you? Do you make friends easily? Are your friendships just surface relationships? Here we go again…I know, I know. I ask a lot of questions. These are the issues I’m facing. And I believe I’m not alone.
Let's go to the Creator of friendships. Let's go to the One who does have it ALL figured out. What does Jesus have to say about the mysteries of friendship?
How to Develop Friendships
I see this first point as sort of a surface subject. For us to have deep meaningful and intimate friendships we should at least have some candidates in mind, right? As an introvert, I don’t make friends easily. But when I do…when they’re real and genuine…I consider them friends for life. My personality on the Enneagram Scale, along with other personality tests, reveals my loyal side. While I can count on myself to be a loyal friend, I struggle with getting past the first step of even having anyone to be loyal to. Since that’s a requirement, I find myself spinning my wheels.
What can we do to start developing friendships? The first and best place to start is finding out what the Bible has to say about friendship. We can never go wrong beginning with God’s word. And while you’re there, talk to Jesus about it. Ask Him to help you understand His Word. We can also tap into the counsel of other Christians. Is there someone you go to church with that is older or shows themselves wise?
Here’s what I’ve found in God’s Word to help us both navigate the friendship subject.
1. Start with God as Your Friend
Did you know Abraham was called a friend of God? (see Isaiah 41). If Jesus isn’t our closest-best friend I don’t believe we will ever get the friendship mystery solved. Jesus died for His friends. (see John 15). Look what first John says is the formula for completed joy. Friendship with God and one another.
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. 1 John 1:3-4
God wants to be our friend and encourages us to have friends. Just because we haven’t solved the mystery of friendship, we shouldn’t isolate ourselves from people. Go back to the verse in first John. And this popular verse in Ecclesiastes.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
2. Carefully consider who is friendship material
While I don’t recommend just heading out and trying to connect with the next person that crosses your path, I do encourage us both to pay attention to who God does place in our lives. God warns us about choosing our friends wisely. Proverbs instructs a great deal about relationships. We’re warned against having too many friends. Jesus was the perfect example of having a small group of close friendships with His disciples.
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
Consider the following verses about the character of people we should be seeking friendships with.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:20
Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. Proverbs 22:24
One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. Proverbs 12:26
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 1 Corinthians 15:33
3. Be patient, finding the right fit takes time
While you are carefully considering through prayer…be sure you’re willing to wait on God. His timing, His direction, His will may be hard to see or even understand, but trust Him. He has a plan. It’s always the best one for us.
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:8
How to have Deep Friendships
God reminds us that friendship requires sacrifice. They require time. Effort. If you’re not invested in your friendships I would wonder if they would be better called acquaintances?
1. Invest in your friends
Do you have any skin in the game? When you’re able to move the word friend as a noun to a verb…you’ll find yourself invested in the relationship.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
2. Have realistic expectations of your friends
God reminds us that friends won’t be perfect. This shouldn’t be a shock - none of us are perfect.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:6
3. Be careful not to become emotionally dependent on your friends
Friends shouldn’t and can’t replace Jesus. He’s the only One who can support us emotionally.
You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:3
How to Care for Friendships
This goes hand in hand with how to have deep friendships. If you’re not able to care for your friendships…you won’t be going deeper, growing closer or cultivating a lifelong connection. Our friendships should show that we belong to Jesus.
1. Practice Grace with Your friend
Constantly point your friend to Jesus. Pray with them. Forgive them. Hold them accountable.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 1 Peter 4:8-10
2. Seek and give counsel with your friend
God reminds us that the advice of a friend is a good thing…again praying together seeking the wisdom of God. Our friends know us better than anyone else and can often help us see the solution to an issue all while pointing one another to Jesus.
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. Proverbs 27:9
3. Walk with your friend through the ups and downs
God knows we aren’t perfect and reminds us to love our friends no matter what. We all go through things. We all need a shoulder and we all need to be reminded of Jesus especially when we’re facing a difficult time. A true friend isn’t fair weather…you can spot your true friends if they’re the one sitting next to you during a difficult time.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17
A word of WARNING ABOUT FRIENDSHIP
There are often things or issues that we think people are or should already be aware of. But I find the older I get that there are younger women that really need us to step up and help them realize things that maybe some of us have learned the hard way.
It is my opinion that people of the opposite sex can not and should not have close friendships. In fact, I will go as far to say that friendships with the opposite sex are unhealthy and risky. Please understand what I’m trying to say here. My husband and I have couple friends and even consider to be close, but it’s important to understand that being alone with, having private conversations with the opposite sex or anything of this nature is wrong and should be completely avoided. You’re putting yourself and the other person and their marriage or relationship with a significant other at great risk and my friend, it’s NOT worth it.
I would also like to point out the roundup I’m sharing below. Particularly, Leslie Ludy’s post about healthy female friendships over at Lies Young Women Believe it is a must read!
A prayer for friendship
Lord, I ask you to forgive me for my failures as a friend. I ask for wisdom in finding the friend that I know you have for me. I know I have a list of “friends” I attend church or connection group with, Lord. And while I’m blessed to fellowship and serve with them, I don’t feel “close” to them. I don’t sit with them during a trial or them me. We’re not really doing life together…whatever that’s really suppose to look like, Lord.
Help that one reading this today who also struggles in the friendship area. Put a sister in her life that will come along side that she can grow closer to you with. Jesus, I know you are the perfect example for us, please help us learn from you and develop, deepen and care for those friendships you have blessed us with. Forgive me for not being the friend you’ve called me to be to those currently in my life. Help me to be the friend to them that they need. I love you, Lord. Amen.
A round up of 7 terrific posts on the subject of friendship
I love what Bailey over at This Illustrious Life says about “following through.”
““We should totally hang out!”
How many times have you said that to someone you bumped into without any intentions of actually texting them? If you’re looking to make lasting friendships, follow through on this. Of course, you might not be inclined to follow through if you didn’t genuinely mean what you said, but if you were sincere in your sentiments send the text! Make the call, drop by unannounced. Just follow through.
And remember, late is better than never.”
I bet you had a friend come to mind when you were reading this didn’t you? Why do we do this? Let’s make a pact today to just stop it and follow through!
I love this quote from Holley Gerth…
“When we try to demand all of this from a human being, we always end up disappointed. But the answer isn’t to shut down our hearts, to tell ourselves we’re being unrealistic or irrational. Instead, it’s to take those desires to the One who put them there in the first place, the only One who can truly fulfill them. Jesus “is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8) yet He also says. “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:5). Both are what we need. Both are eternally true.”
Again, my point previously about being emotionally dependent on anyone but Christ.
Joyce says this over at Unshakeable Joy about the importance of women praying together…
Coming to pray together with women helps to make all of us feeling relieved and peaceful. And, praying together is an important key to enable us to stay grow our closeness to God. We, as women, help each other to trust and show our closeness to each other in God’s eyes.
So yeah, pray with your friends. Point one another to Jesus.
I found a post over at Just Between Us that I resonated with…
“Find someone in your season of life.
For example, if you’re a mom, find someone with kids similar to the age(s) of yours. Although not essential, finding someone with children whose ages nearly match those of your own helps you to live shoulder to shoulder in the same stage of life”
This is exactly what I’ve been praying circles about lately. For a friend in my same season…I know God has someone in mind.
Kelly Needham shares a post titled True Friends are Hard to Find over at Desiring God that will help you gauge the health of a friendship…whether it’s a true Christian friendship or not.
“The world’s idea of intimacy in friendship is making much of one another: “I can’t live without you!” Compliments and pledges of devotion quickly give a brief and false adrenaline rush of importance and significance. We certainly need to encourage and affirm one another, but Christian friends should be far more focused on God’s weight and significance — not their own or their friend’s.”
It can’t be repeated enough…as much as we need friends…we need them to be healthy friendships.
Leslie Ludy shares a post about healthy female friendships over at Lies Young Women Believe that is a must read!
“Avoid emotional dependence.
When you find a girlfriend that you really connect with, there is a strong temptation to call or text her multiple times a day, tell her every detail about your life, and rush to spill your guts to her whenever something difficult or exciting happens. Girls are prone to spend hours of each week “processing” their emotions, thoughts, feelings, and dreams with each other. Even though it’s a blessing to have a like-minded sister that you can open up to, if you allow too much opening up too often, it will quickly lead to an unhealthy pattern of emotional dependence.”
If you don’t read any of the posts in this round up may I encourage you to read this one? I’ve witnessed time and again what she speaks about in younger women especially. It’s so important to know who’s you are and who are in Christ.
Hanha shared a post on her blog, Transparency, titled Three Types of Friends You Should and Should Not Have.
“These are the people that you know without a doubt are God-ordained or divine friendships. With these friendships, you don’t necessarily have to talk every day and you may not even live in the same city, but they are sweet and rare. You can pour into each other and connect with one another in a deep way. These are your Jonathan and David relationships as I’d like to say.”
My prayer for you and I both, sweet woman of God, is that he would bless us with a friendship Hanha speaks about.
What your thoughts about friendship? Have you faced struggles too? I’d love to hear about it in the comments at the bottom!