Cultivating Meaningful Friendships

“Next time you travel this far, bring me a Hershey’s chocolate bar.” The kind lady giving us directions had just found out my friend lived in the Hershey area. We promised we would and returned to our car, confident once again that we could find our way to Ricketts Glen State Park. Our plan was to hike the trail that loops past 17 waterfalls. It promised non-stop amazing views and a great hike, except for the fact that it was raining. Not the nice, misty kind of rain, but the slow, steady, “I’m going to get you soaked eventually,” kind. We drove 2 ½ hours to hike a 3 mile trail in the rain, and only had to turn around 3 or 4 times.

This is one of my stories with my best friend. I have a lot. The many hikes, suppers, and plays, good conversations, and probably hundreds of dollars we spend paying for that coffee shop atmosphere all add up.

But I have a confession. I remain a committed introvert. I can’t handle more than a few good friendships at a time. I hate starting conversations. I’ve never been good at that “be a friend, to have a friend” thing. And I never sat down and decided to have a meaningful friendship.

 

The Joy of Friendship

That being said, I love friendship. I need it. I have had so many people speak into my life through the simple joy of friendship. It is a gift we should hold on to and learn to cultivate in our lives.

Community is a recent catchword. And I jump on the bandwagon with appreciating this one. I think that the feeling of connection we mean when using the word community is comprised of many smaller individual relationships. That isn’t to say you can’t feel community with someone you don’t know very well, but we work toward that deeper individual connection.

 

Family Friends

This is the fellowship of the church. I bring up the church because when I look in the New Testament the most common form of relationship I see is between brothers and sisters in Christ. We are given to each other to love, to exhort, and to consider one another (Romans 14, Hebrews 3:13). We need other people to keep us from drowning in our pit of selfishness and to bring perspective to our lives. These types of relationships are possible, not only in the local context, but in the larger understanding of the church as well.

 

Who is My Friend?

I believe we need two kinds of friends. We need friends that are like us and we need friends that are not like us.

What I mean is that we need friends who have similar convictions, tastes, lifestyles, etc. These people can encourage us in our beliefs, ask questions if we decide to let a conviction slide, and understand where we are coming from in our struggles. We also need people who are uniquely different than us. We learn to see from a different perspective from these friends, understand a different way of life, and be challenged in our ways and thoughts. If we constantly look for and trust only those who look or think like us, our weaknesses will never be exposed and our strengths will be over emphasized. Don’t be afraid of difference – God can use you both for good in each other’s lives.

 

Finding a Friend

The most common way to make a friend involves finding that person you just “click” with. You didn’t know that person would become a good friend, but as you got to know each other, you found similar tastes, interests, and ideas. When you are with that person, you can be yourself.

This is how I experienced many of my friendships. I can’t remember exactly when it started, but now they are the first people I call. This type of friendship opens an easy opportunity for real connection – conversations where you listen and talk about what is really going on inside, a willingness to practice accountability and ask hard questions, and times of prayer together.

Not every time you hang out must look like this, but if you don’t experience a type of this relationship with someone, look around and see who you can be real with. This is not easy. Be willing to share some of your own struggles and, I think more often than not, your friend will respond with, “me too!”

 

Being a Friend

Then there is that girl. You feel like you have nothing in common and just can’t connect with her. But she really needs a friend.

This is a hard one. I’ve wrestled with knowing what my responsibility is when I just don’t get along with someone. Some friendships aren’t healthy. If a person is excessively needy, controlling, or unapproachable, close friendship isn’t possible. But don’t use that as an excuse for any friendship that is hard.

Even if close friendship isn’t possible, being friendly is. So is honesty, being yourself, and caring. If she (or he) just annoys you, try leading your emotions with your actions. In my experience, I find that when I watch my attitude and do what a friend should, appreciation for and enjoyment of that person follows.

 

The Promise of Friendship

God designed friendship. Just like the relationships in marriage and family, God shows us something about his relationship through friendship. In fact, an amazing privilege and promise God gives us in his word is that he calls us his friends.

Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:13-15 ESV).

Jesus gave us friendship with God by his death and by revealing the Father to us – how incredible that we are friends with Jesus. We can be honest with him and talk to him about our experiences. He can see clearly into our situations, walk alongside us, and challenge and correct our ways of thinking. The one person we really need as a friend is the Almighty God of the universe. Not only do we need him, but he took the initiative in providing that friendship with himself.

God is our friend. Our earthly friend stories give us only a glimpse of his far greater, unending, redemptive friendship story.

This article merely touches on a few aspects of friendship. I didn’t say anything about friendship with unbelievers, conflicts in friendships, loving Jesus more than our friends, etc. That leaves a lot of room for you to comment and discuss.

How should we make good friends?
What is most important in a friendship?
How do we know if a friendship is unhealthy?
In what ways do you experience God’s faithful friendship?

S+P4 (3) Sadie Beery has recently been transplanted to Elnora, Indiana where she lives with her husband, Aaron, and interacts with the Elnora Bible Institute where he works. She loves poetry, good coffee, and Skype calls. Currently she works at a little thrift store, turning one man’s trash into another man’s treasure. She is excited about the adventure of life God is leading her on and longs know him better and do all things with excellence for His glory. Her dream is to one day publish a book, but right now she just tries to find time to clean the house.

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