Friendships–Are Christian friendships overrated? Does it sometimes seem that going it alone is safer, happier, even better? Biblical counselor Suzanne Holland, listed on this site’s Heart2Heart Counselor Directory, answers this common question and gives hope. Her article appeared first here and is used with permission.
“Do I Really Need Friends?”
A newcomer to our church asked this question after she happened to mention to me that she lacked close friends in the area. Though she’d lived here for many years, she still had not really established any relationships beyond the surface of small talk and playdate arrangements with other moms.
She added that she really gets all the advice and encouragement she needs from blogs and of course, her daily Bible reading. What do you think? Are friendships something we truly need? Or are they just a bonus that a few of us enjoy if we are so blessed?
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When I took the time to think about it later, lining up the question with biblical truth, I came to the conclusion that we really do need friends.
The first thing that came to mind that makes friendships a need, rather than a desire or a bonus, is that we are created in the image and likeness of God. He is always in fellowship with the Son and the Holy Spirit, isn’t he?. In fact, they are so closely related that the Bible says that they are one Being in three Persons.
God is a Person who is in fellowship. This seems to indicate to me, since we are made in His image, that friendships and the fellowship that results from them would be a true biblical need for us as His children.
Examples of Friendships in Scripture
There are many examples of deep and lasting friendships in Scripture. Some are David and Jonathan, and Elijah and Elisha. Others are Paul with Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Onesimus, and Silas (and probably many others).
You could also list Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And the friends of the paralytic who lowered him down through the roof. Then there are Dorcas and her sewing circle, and of course, Jesus, John, Peter,and the other disciples.
You could probably go on for a long time listing accounts of friendships that are mentioned in the Bible. Now, if the Bible is to be our guidebook for life, don’t you think that it indicates that friendships and fellowship among believers are to be pursued? It sure seems that way to me.
Impediments to Friendship
If all this is true, then why do so many believing women seem to be lone rangerettes? Are there exceptions to this apparent biblical rule of life? I doubt it.
I think there are several reasons that a woman may choose to go it alone:
First, in my experience some women just do not want to make the investment to have and to be a friend. Maybe they’ve been betrayed in the past, and they just are not willing to open up on that level to someone else. Perhaps they are burdened by heavy trials, such as chronic illness or pain, and they don’t believe they have the energy for a deep friendship. Maybe they are consumed with work or ministry, and simply do not have the time that it takes to maintain a deep and meaningful friendship.
Second, some women are unwilling to deal with the ups and downs of friendship. Perhaps they are easily offended or overly sensitive, and so they back away at the first indication that this relationship may not be perfect. A missed call, an overlooked text message, or even just the fact that a new friend didn’t seek them out on Sunday morning to say hello may be enough to make these women back off and decide not to pursue deeper fellowship with an individual. The risk is just too great.
Questions to Consider
If you see yourself in any of these descriptions, I’d like to challenge you today with some questions.
- What do you think is the reason you have chosen not to bring people into your life on a deeper level? Here are some heart level questions to help you sort this out:
- What do you think might happen if you allow people to really know you?
- Are you concerned with what they might think of you if they really knew you?
- If your life is too busy for friends, what might be the reason you have filled it up so completely?
- Is it possible that you have done this purposefully, so that you always have a reason why you can’t get together with someone? Are you insulating yourself?
- If you are unable to deal with the emotional aspects of friendship, what might be the heart behind that?
- Is there a lack of trust in God and His sovereignty over your relationships?
- Have you allowed your view of self to drift so far from a biblical one (your identity in Christ) that you would allow others to determine your value based on your performance in a friendship?
My Challenge to You
This Christian life can be really hard at times, my blog reading friend. I’m sure that you already know that, but it’s worth stating as I conclude my challenge to you today.
Blogs, books, and podcasts are helpful tools, but they cannot you on when you’re struggling, make you laugh when you’re taking yourself too seriously, or put their arms around you when you are falling apart. Only a true friend—one who knows you and is known by you—can do these things.
More importantly, those things that you’re relying on instead of seeking friendships will not ask anything of you. They don’t need you to encourage, exhort, rebuke, support, or build them up in any way. These are all things we are commanded by the Bible to do for one another. If you do not have friends, you are not doing these things, nor can you. Refusing to have or be a friend means you are disobeying biblical commands about fellowship and being a part of the body of Christ.
If you find yourself in the league of lone rangerettes, I hope you will think on these things and prayerfully consider seeking out a biblical friendship today.
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
CONFLICT: No one likes it but it is impossible to avoid! So what’s the solution? In this post by guest writer and counselor Ellen Castillo, you’ll discover six steps to peacemaking. By the way, peacemaking is NOT peacekeeping. Big difference!
Her article appeared first here on her website and is used with permission. Ellen also listed here on Heart2Heart Counselor Directory.
Conflict. It’s one of those words that makes us cringe and shrink back in denial and fear.
Too often our gut reaction when someone confronts us with an offense is to defend ourselves. Even if we were in the wrong, we tend to want to cover it up. (That is nothing new, read about Adam and Eve!) We try to justify ourselves, blame someone else, avoid the problem, and the list goes on. We stand ready with excuses in hand, armed for the battle, fully intending to win it.
God offers us a better way. He offers us the way of grace. He extends grace to us and we are to extend it to others. The Bible is very clear regarding how we are to respond to conflict. We can draw from Scripture these
Six practical steps to use when we face conflict:
1. Remove the log.
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:5
Before you engage in any discussion that will involve pointing out another’s sin, be sure that you have prepared your heart. In order to enter that conversation with proper motives and a forgiving attitude, you will need to admit your own failure in the relationship, acknowledge your own sin issues, and take responsibility for your part in the conflict. It takes two to have a conflict and rarely is there only one guilty party.
Confess, repent, admit, and seek forgiveness. Only then are you able to have the right motives for confronting someone with the goal of reconciliation.
2. Admit weakness and failure.
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Proverbs 28:13
Again, own up to your part in the conflict. You need God’s mercy as much as the other person. Total honesty prepares your heart and presents your case in a way that is much more likely to be received.
This is the way of humility. Pride in your heart will hinder reconciliation. Humility opens the doors of communication that can lead to reconciliation.
3. Don’t promise to do better next time.
But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. James 5:12
The truth is, you will fail again. You are a sinner and so am I.
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We can seek God to help us to deal with our relationships in a godly manner but we will never achieve perfection. Sin has messed up that possibility. You can ask for help, accountability, and avail yourself to some input. But you cannot promise to “do better” because you probably won’t.
God’s grace is sufficient for that. We are to have integrity (let our yes be yes) but there are consequences to making a promise that we cannot keep.
4. Grant grace no matter who is in the wrong.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31
Approaching a guilty sinner with an attitude of grace is critical to the healing of conflict. You, too, are a guilty sinner. It is a level playing field at the foot of the cross. We tend to forget that when we are ready to win a battle in conflict. It is easy to believe we are the innocent party as we aim to accuse and admonish someone. Whether that person has truly sinned and needs to repent or not, grace in your approach is critical and healing.
5. Offer solutions, not accusations.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16
In order to reconcile, we need to do more than simply pointing out the problem that brought conflict. Reconciliation is only possible when there is a plan put in place to work towards rebuilding relationship
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. That plan will be useful only if it is based on God’s Word. God’s Word has the answers to our relationship struggles.
An excellent resource for how to resolve conflict biblically is the Peacemaker ministries (founded by Ken Sande.) There you will find biblical solutions to conflict that are not only rooted in biblical principles but also practical in nature and ready to be put in to practice.
6. Purpose to be reconciled.
Better yet, to be restored to full relationship.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
This verse speaks for itself. Do whatever you possibly can to reconcile a conflict. If the other person does not reciprocate, that is not your responsibility. They are responsible for their own sin, and you are responsible only for yours. At the end of the day, have you done everything you can to resolve conflict?
God has called us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers.
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Peacekeepers want to avoid conflict, and will do whatever it takes to do so.
Peacemakers want to resolve conflict, and will do whatever God’s Word teaches to do so.
Scripture teaches peacemaking, not peacekeeping!
Reconciliation between believers is a picture of The Gospel. If we keep this in mind and remember it is not about us, but it is about glorifying God, we will be more motivated to reconcile. When we reconcile with people, we are also reconciled to God Himself.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18
Is there a conflict in one of your relationships? If so, take Romans 12:18 to heart and become a peacemaker today.
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
TRUE FRIENDS: Aren’t they hard to find? In this article by Kelly Needham, which appeared here and is used with permission, discover the 5 marks of true Christian friendship.–LAM
True friends are hard to find.
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They stick closer than family, and often know you better. They pray bigger things for you than you pray for yourself. They believe with you when your faith is weak. They make space for you when life falls apart, and they rejoice with you when all is well. Most importantly, true friends remind you in every encounter who and what is most important.
The essence of Christian friendship is companionship forged in the fire of two convictions: 1) Jesus alone can satisfy the soul and 2) his kingdom alone is worth living for.
Enemies in Disguise?
Jesus is our Bread of Life, our Living Water, our Pearl of Great Price, our Light, our Resurrection, our very Life. The greatest danger to our souls is that we might abandon abiding in him, following him, and finding our joy in him. Therefore, the best gift a friend can give is a commitment to fight for our joy in and communion with Christ.
Conversely, the worst distortion of friendship arises when a friend encourages us, consciously or unconsciously, to place our affections elsewhere. The apostle Peter unwittingly acts out this kind of distortion in Matthew 16. Jesus tells his disciples that he will die and rise again (Matthew 16:21). Peter rebukes Jesus with what was surely a well-intentioned comment from a loyal friend: “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22).
It looks like the deepest, most genuine, most beautiful form of friendship, but Peter’s words put him between Jesus and his obedience to the Father. His ignorance made a friend into an enemy, at least for a moment. “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (Matthew 16:23). What Peter thought was helpful, Jesus called a hindrance. What Peter assumed was godly friendship, Jesus called satanic opposition.
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Five Marks of Christian Friendship
So, how can we avoid Peter’s mistake in our friendships? How can we be a friend who preserves and strengthens the faith of others? Here are five distinct ways that true Christian friendships bolster our love for Christ through our love for one another.
1. True friends heighten our joy in God.
Companionship always deepens joy. My favorite movie is good when watched alone, but it’s better with a friend. Somehow a great meal is more satisfying when shared. We naturally drag our friends into what we enjoy: “You have to see this movie!” “You have to come to this restaurant with me!”
But of all the joys of life, God is the greatest! We were made for him — to enjoy him and center our hearts and lives on him. And like any other joy, our joy in God will be fullest when we share it with other people. Christian friends help us enjoy God by enjoying him with us.
It’s tempting to flip and distort this formula by using God as a means to enjoy people more. If we only go to him to ask for spouses, friends, or kids to enjoy, it reveals we see God as the means to someone else. We should be doing the opposite: looking for more of him in other people. Ironically, we will enjoy our friends more, the more our friendships become a means of enjoying God.
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2. True friends expose sin in us that keeps us from God.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6)
Sin deceives us. It darkens our understanding and makes us fools. So much so that we may be walking in sin and convinced that we are obeying God (think of the Pharisees). This is why we desperately need friends.
We need friends to lovingly show us our sin. We need friends to help us see our blind spots. We need friends to speak with brutal honesty (Matthew 18:15) and tender compassion (Galatians 6:1), telling us the truth about ourselves even when we don’t want to hear it (Ephesians 4:15).
This is a vital function of community that few people want. We’d much rather have friends who always tell us what we want to hear, who show us the false grace of excusing sin and give us false hope that we can grow closer to God without repentance. But because sin is a poison to our souls and a thief of our joy in God, we cannot afford to forsake this kind of friendship.
3. True friends encourage us to obey God.
While it is true we need friends to help us see any disobedience, we also need them to spur us on to obedience. Often, obedience to God takes more courage than we can muster alone. Without the faithful cheerleading of Christian friends, we easily shrink back into stagnant apathy, not wanting to willfully disobey, but also too afraid to step out in faith.
The encouragement we are told to give isn’t flattery, or superficial inspiration. En-courage-ment is giving courage and strength to others for the intimidating task before them. We cast a bigger vision for why their obedience matters for God’s kingdom. We affirm that their obedience glorifies God and counts in eternity.
Whatever form it takes, encouragement motivates others to continue running the specific race God has marked out for them.
4. True friends bring us to God in our weakness.
Behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. (Luke 5:18–19)
Walking through life in a God-belittling world, with our sin-ridden flesh, against a hell-bent enemy, is too hard to be attempted alone. Alone, we easily believe the lies of Satan. Alone, we buckle under the weight of our sin. Alone, we grow discouraged and weary. Like the paralytic, we need the help of other believers to carry us to God.
So, how can we bring others to God? We listen to a sister confess a hidden sin and wash her with the truth that Christ has cleansed her and made her whole. We can meet the practical needs of those enduring intense suffering in Jesus’s name. Or we can simply bring our friends to God in prayer, asking him to do greater things in their lives than we can do for them.
5. True friends love us for the glory of God.
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.
Like everything else, the end goal of our friendships should be God and his glory.
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Since our hearts are prone to wander away and worship other things, we need these constant reminders of his glory and his worth in our friendships.
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
Friend, I hope you’ll love this replay of one of my popular posts. I made a few edits and changed the photo but my heart on friendship remains true. Jill Savage and her daughter Annie have a new book on moms and friendship. It’s titled Better Together: Because You’re Not Meant to Mom It Alone. You might want to check it out.
The one thing every friend needs is. . .someone who accepts our messiness and loves us in the messy.
Let’s be honest. Friendships scare you and me.
Friendships meet a God-given need for relationship, so why do few women make friends as easily as my college-aged daughter Julia? She collects friends like shiny pennies. She and her friends — girls and guys — always text, tweet, snap chat, and meet IRL (in real life) over lunch, dinner, snacks, more snacks — all their waking hours.
She’s the girl I wanted to be in high school, the girl with gravitational pull.
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Could some of your and I fear we’re too messy to be lovable? accepted? to have a place of belonging?
Why a Friend Matters
A friend is “someone you feel close to, see often, and can count on when you need her” This is a definition Dee Brestin shared in her iconic book, The Friendships of Women.
A friend helps you know you matter to her. . .even when your life get messy.
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And who doesn’t have a messy life? Sometimes “super women” look like that they have it all together. They don’t. They’re hiding behind masks. Perhaps perfection or busyness or materialism or career-climbing.
Please be assured that they’re messy too.
Listen to Elyse Fitzpatrick, a biblical counselor, conference speaker, and author:
Until recent years, even though I knew I was to serve God, I never had my priorities straight. I never understood that my problem was me — not my husband, job, kids, car, parents . . .you fill in the blanks. I was confused and the psychological pholosophies that had crept into my thinking were making things worse. Didn’t I neeed to learn to love myself? Didn’t I need to get my needs met? Didn’t I have a need for romance? For security? For significance? How could God expect me to pour my life out for others then I was so miserable myself? Didn’t I need to fill my own ‘love cup’ before I could fill others? (from Women Helping Women, Harvest House, 1997)
After digging deep into the Bible for God’s truth, her focus changes and she recognizes her messiness and the solution to it.
Now I understand that I’m not to be concerned with whether my perceived ‘needs’ are being met. These ‘needs’ are not issues for me anymore because I believe that God have given me everything for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). It’s not that I’m perfect, I’m not. In fact, I’m far more aware of my sin now than ever before. It’s just that life makes sense now and I’m confident that my loving Father is in control.
Yes, she needs friends. Just as I do and you do.
Real friends.Our real friends give hugs and listen when we have real hurts and laugh with us not at us. Because they listen, our friends encourage and strengthen us. They help us know we are not alone.
Do you have a friend you encourages you? How do you encourage your friends? Hugs? Notes? Listening? Laughing?
Are You Friend “Challenged”?
God is piloting me through a friend-free zone now, and I don’t like it. My once close friends got busy and I got busy too — with work, with family responsibilities. Does your busy life make time for friends? How can you schedule in friend time so you can encourage her and be encouraged?
I cried to God, “I feel friendless and I don’t like it.”
The Lord spoke to my heart: “Come to Me.”
Quiet sharpens my hearing.
Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10, NIV
I sensed that the Lord will renew friendships and bring new ones. . .in his time. He’s giving me another opportunity to trust him. Do you feel friend challenged too? If so does this bring on feelings of worthlessness?
Whether you have a bazillion girlfriends like my daughter, Julia, or just a few — or none — God says you matter. When friendships become hurtful, you matter.
It’s not the number of friends on Facebook that matters most. So stop counting. Stop comparing.
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What matters most is your friendship with your Maker, and he’ll take care of the rest. Honest. God knows your need of friendship better than you do.
Here are a few “You Matter” verses from God’s heart to yours. Why not memorize one or two this week?
“I am a child of God.” John 1:12
“I am a saint.” Ephesians 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:2, Philippians. 1:1, Colossians 1:2
“I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved.” Colossians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:4
“I am God’s workmanship — his handiwork — born anew in Christ to do his work.” Ephesians 2:10
Sweet friend, be sure to read the next post. Simply subscribe to my blog now while it’s on your mind.
Sharing hope with your heart!
Some women are roses, a few are thorns. But even rose bushes have thorns, so how do you handle the hurt?
Two solutions pop into mind.
1. Drop your friend.
2. Stick with your friend.
Which solution seems best to you? What choice have you made in the past when a friend has hurt you? Is there an even better solution that these two?
Friendship Coach Chimes In
Best-selling author Dee Brestin wrote The Friendships of Women, which has sold over a million copies. By this book and her bible studies she has mentored many women through problem friendships. She writes,
As roses vary from quiet pink to sunny yellow to razzmatazz red, so do women. And when you draw near to a woman, she will often quite willingly open to you petal after petal of fragrant loveliness.
But lurking beneath the glossy, green leaves of roses are surprisingly nasty thorns. After experiencing a few jabs into your soft, tender flesh, you handle roses with more respect. A dedicated rose gardener, one who believes that the glory of the rose more than compensates for the occasional wounds it inflicts, learns to bear the pain and to handle roses in such a way that she is seldom stabbed.
Lovely roses with pointy, blood-thirsty thorns? The thought of it freaks me out.
When hurt, I usually want to back away. Or scream.
What about you? When was the last time you were jabbed by a woman friend? Today? Last week? How did you handle the pain?
When a Friend Didn’t Mean to Hurt You
Often your friend didn’t intend to hurt you. She made a mistake. Perhaps the hurt was a. . .
A careless remark.
A forgotten invitation.
An unexplained silence.
A last-minute cancelled plan.
Did you know that when a friend hurts you, it’s no fun but makes sense? This hurt – as painful as it may be – confirms Scripture, that each of us has a fallen nature. Yep, we’re all in trouble and we all need help.
The Bible teaches that the gospel of Jesus Christ transforms lives. This good news of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension has an astonishing effect on you and me. It means that we who love Jesus are loved by God; we are his daughters — despite the messy mistakes we make and the friends we hurt.
The apostle Paul wrote to his young friend Timothy,
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesuscame into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 1 Timothy 1:15
SOLUTION: When unintentionally hurt by a your friend, forgive her. Keep your friendship. Tell her, lovingly, that she hurt your feelings. Talk it through. You’ll grow closer.
When a Friend Meant to Stab!
What’s a solution when your friend turned enemy and actually meant to slice and dice?
But think hard if keeping the friendship is wise.
If she gossiped once or twice, your friendship is probably worth restoring. If she bedded your husband, you have no friendship. She’s a destroyer.
SOLUTION: Find a female mentor at your church to talk through your hurt feelings. Discuss whether to have a conversation with your former friend and how. It’s usually best to have another person with you — your mentor, your husband or other family member, a counselor — to keep emotions in check during the talk. Tell her how you feel. Pray before and after your talk.
When have dropped a friend? Have you forgiven her?
as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13b
Outside my door, I have a rose bush covered in magenta blossoms in season. It has nasty thorns. When stabbed, I don’t take it personally. The rose bush is just being itself. Thorns and all. This is the nature of the rose bush.
So it is with friendships. They are not perfect and never will be.
COUNSELING: Are you hurting from a broken relationship? Contact me for Christ-centered biblical counseling.