Isn’t it ironic? We can have 1,000 Facebook friends or Instagram followers, yet people are lonely as ever! In fact, depression is on the current list of top internet searches. With the advent of social media, it seems like having real friendships has become even harder. While our relationship with God and then family comes first, there is the huge friend category – especially if you are single.
I’ve noticed that as you get older, and even more after you get married, it’s significantly harder to find good friends. After college the social pool seems to infinitely shrink, as does your free time and availability to find those gal pals. And what is the definition of a good friend anyway? Finding good biblical friends seems even harder. Anybody with me on that one?
This week’s Read With Me Book Club chapter, “Consider People”, has dynamite points on friendship that I want to summarize and comment on for you.
“As women we are by nature relational creatures. We thrive on interaction with others and wither apart from it. Our world is primarily centered on our family and friends,” writes Carolyn Mahaney.
“Yet, we are often more passive and receptive rather than intentional and purposeful in our relationships. We may allow people to drift in and out of our lives. We don’t usually pause to consider why we pursue a certain friendship or neglect another. Emotions and feelings often dictate the way we go about relationships.” So how do we evaluate our friendships? Who should we be pursuing?
Typically, we spark friendships with people who are easy to get along with, laugh at all your jokes (and sincerely think they are funny), like the same coffee joint (Go PEET’s), share the same opinions on fashion and TV shows, are available to hang out on a Friday night, bring you flowers or chocolate when you’ve had a horrific week, etc. Those are all great, but they don’t necessarily define a biblical friendship. And ladies we need those!
Find friends who sharpen you. Hebrews 10:24 [describes] the ideal friend as someone who [stirs us] up ….to love and good works. We need to have at least one -and preferably many -friends who inspire us to serve, provoke us to love, help us grow in godliness, correct us, strengthen our faith, and spur us on to passion for the Savior.
Who to love?
How do we get to THOSE types of friends? The righteous chooses his friends carefully. Here is a Proverbs 12:26 suggestion: Write down a list of names of all the people in your relational network. Then evaluate each relationship. You might consider the following:
1. Take a friendship in a new direction. Maybe you just need to ask. Turn a friend into a sharpening influence by inviting them to point out sin (a good ouch), encourage us in the gospel (yes, please!), and stir us up to love and good deeds (more like a poke for me). The chances are, they won’t turn us down!
2. Assess the spiritual maturity of your peeps and realize you might need to add some godly friends. It’s easy to maintain the fun relationships you already have with people you click with, especially if they are long time friends from high school or before you became a believer. It might be awkward and out of your comfort zone, but you should pursue and initiate friendships with ladies who will sharpen you, even if it seems intimidating at first.
3. Seek discipleship. We ought to aggressively seek out women to help us grow in the admirable qualities of biblical femininity [AND] be faithful to pass on our experience and wisdom to those behind us. There is always someone younger in the faith than you. (Unless you just got saved reading this post, which is highly unlikely.) Even if you are a young believer, there is always someone younger who could use encouragement and to read the Bible and pray with!
There are two other categories of friends that should also be on our radar: friends who need friends and friends who need salvation. Scripture spurs us in Heb. 13:1-2 to “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers”. Welcoming a new person is as easy as introducing yourself to a new visitor with a warm smile, inviting a second or third timer out to lunch with your posse, or asking a quieter woman out to coffee.
It’s so easy to forget the awkward newbie feeling the longer you are settled into a group. If you walk into a room with a ministry mindset and seek out the new or lonely person first, it’s easier to include them first as opposed to doing it after you’re already involved in catch-up conversation with your besties. Better yet, agree with a close gal pal to seek out others together. What new person wouldn’t love being in the middle of a welcome sandwich?
Friends who need salvation. We were all one of those at one point in our lives. Not all of us have the blessing of growing up with Christian parents or going to church. It can be easy with all of our responsibilities to neglect the lost around us. Evangelism should be a priority. On our prayer list should be at least one person we are pursuing with the purpose of having “gracious, gospel-motivated conversations”.
Who to lose?
Carolyn has wise words for us. Pr. 13:20 states, “Whoever walks with the wise will become wise. The companion of fools will suffer harm.” A sober assessment of our list will tell if we have foolish, ungodly, or rebellious people in our close circle. Do you gravitate towards or enjoy spending time with people who love the world more than the Savior? If so, you’re in dangerous company. Just as godly friends bring blessing, foolish friends bring harm.
It’s dangerous to think the unsavory character of foolish friends won’t affect us. 1 Cor. 15:33 warns us to not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” When it comes to friendships, we become like those people we spend the most time with. The reality is, “…we don’t consort with the rebellious and become more obedient. We don’t associate with the worldly and become more godly.”
If this is the case, you need to quickly and kindly remove yourself from these ungodly relationships and influences in your life. But don’t leave a vacuum, seek out godly uplifting replacements. An older friend or mentor in the faith would be a great help and support in this process. Maybe she is the first friend on your list to find.
One last consideration: time. Relationships are important, but we also need to consider their proper place. Don’t forget to evaluate the time and investment you are spending on relationships to see if they correctly reflect the priority the friendship should hold in your season of life. Do you spend so much time with too many friends that other responsibilities get neglected? Or perhaps you only have one or two friends you do everything with and you should allot more time to other types of relationships? Remember: changing seasons also mean changing relationships. As things come and go, you will have to re-evaluate.