Recently, I shared a teary-eyed conversation with a Christian friend who is employed by a prominent ministry. This is not the first time I have had a conversation of this nature; in fact, it is one I have shared with quite a few women involved in churches, Bible studies, and a number of other ministries. Typically, we begin by exchanging the details of our various roles and commitments, but as we go deeper, nine times out of ten my conversation partner begins divulging how lonely she feels, even though she is involved in numerous activities alongside a number of other believers. I listen with empathy, because I really do know how she feels. In spite of being surrounded by lots of other people, I believe such feelings can often be attributed to a lack of genuine, authentic friendship.
Biblically, those who have good friendships stand firm, and those who don’t, falter. “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). Friendship is arguably one of the most important investments you can make on this earth. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Eccl. 4:9–10 NIV).
Personally, I hadn't learned the art of developing friendship until the Lord blessed me with someone who lovingly modeled it for me. This friend of mine showed me how to cultivate a bond of mutual affection with another human being. Here are a few things I learned from her along the way about what it looks like to be a friend.
- Friendship requires devotion, and devotion is a wholehearted pursuit. What comes to mind when you consider the concept of devotion to another human being? Is it possible to be devoted to anything or anyone beside God? I think so, if it falls in line with his will. We can pledge ourselves to a single purpose: loving God, and with that, he also commands us to love one another (John 13:34–35). Being devoted to one another in brotherly love is a biblical concept (Rom. 12:10) that we should strive to live out in our friendships.
- In order to be a friend, you must seek to know and be known. Friendship requires intentionality, or a deliberate approach to intimately knowing each other. In order to do this on a practical level you must develop the skill of asking good questions. These can range from questions of interest, to matters of the heart. In return, offer your friend the gift of knowing you.
- Friendship involves celebrating each other and recognizing each other as a gift from God. This point builds on the former, because in order to celebrate your friend, you must know them. Friends speak life into each other. It is a gift to do life alongside your friends—communicating this to one another will affirm and deepen your relationship.
- Friendship involves service. “Honor one another above yourselves” (Rom. 12:10b NIV). Ask your friend to give you a few practical examples of ways in which she feels most served. Go out of your way to place the needs of your friend above your own and know that as you do so, you are serving the Lord.
I am so grateful my friend chose to disciple me in the ways of friendship, as I didn't really know how to cultivate depth of friendship until she lived it out in front of me and showed me how to do it. The extension of her friendship to me has greatly impacted my life and even my marriage.
Do any of the above suggestions resonate with you? Which, if any, do you want to put into practice as you cultivate godly friendships?
May you be encouraged to be the kind of friend that you desire, recognizing that, ultimately, it is an expression of the friendship that has been extended to us in the person of Jesus Christ.