One of the deepest longings of our heart is to experience true friendship.
A woman who finds a friend has found a treasure for life. Time spent with a girlfriend can draw out what is best in us and make us feel loved, understood, and filled.
Girlfriend time is good medicine.
Filling Empty Places
On the other hand, when we feel like the friendless girl in Junior High, loneliness dominates our hearts. We can feel cut off – like Tiny Tim at Christmas, peering through windows at everyone else’s amazing celebration while lacking anything significant for ourselves.
I’ve lived on both ends of the friendship spectrum – having been teased and bullied in elementary school, and then being gifted with some of the dearest and most caring adult friendships later in life. I experienced seasons in between of longing for depth and connection, and I sometimes gave up hope of ever finding “my people” – the ones who would love me just as I am.
I spent some of those hurting years mistakenly seeking people to fill me up in empty places. I didn’t realize then that I was looking for them to do something only God could really do for me.
A few types of friends
Jesus said we are not His slaves, but His friends. We cultivate friendship with Jesus by abiding in His love, walking alongside Him in His ways, and bearing His fruit. The essence and ground for all true friendship springs up from the intimacy and acceptance we have with Him. When I invest in my relationship with Jesus, so much of what I long for elsewhere is filled to overflowing.
Jesus was called a friend of sinners. When you look at that word for “friend” in the Greek, it means a companion or familiar associate. It simply means He hung out with them, they weren’t necessarily his soulmates with deeply connected relationships to Him.
At other times, when Jesus offered a gentle rebuke to someone, He might say, “friend,” but that word was a kindly greeting, like how surfers say, “dude,” these days. It didn’t mean the person was intimate with Jesus. He even used that term to Judas when he came to betray Him – the kindly address, not the term for intimacy.
What does Jesus mean when He calls us friends?
When the word friend is used for intimate connection and devotion in God’s Word, it comes from the Hebrew word, “ahab.” This is a loving relationship who is near as a family member. This is the word God uses when he speaks of the quality of His relationship with Abraham or Jacob. At other times He uses it to talk about His relationship to the entire tribe of Israel. It could be easily interchanged with the word, “beloved.”
The real meaning of friendship comes out in Deut 13:6, where it says, “… your friend who is as your own soul …” There is nothing casual about friendship in God’s eyes. If someone is going to be as our own soul, we ought to use great care allowing them to grow into that position in our hearts and lives.
Go Deep, Not Wide
It is interesting to me that God warns us in Proverbs 18:24 that “a man of too many friends comes to ruin. But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” The first word for friends in this passage means companions – people we surround ourselves with. The second is “ahab,” a beloved and intimate friend. We can try to keep up with too many people and it harms us. But, having a few true friends is a blessing.
God’s model for friendship is not exactly the Facebook approach (“I have 500 friends!!). He wants us to major in quality and not in quantity. He knows how He made us with a limited capacity to invest and be intimate, so we need to choose well and wisely and keep the numbers low so the intimacy can be high.
Can you picture your friendships right now? How many people can you call true friends? How much time do you have to invest in these relationships? A few years ago I started putting more thought and intention into friendship.
I wrote the names of the five women in my yearly planner. I determined to pray for them, reach out to them, and bless them weekly over the coming year. Previously in my life I had thought of friendships as something I needed to fill empty spaces. That year I learned how a person who wants to build deeper friendships needs to be a better friend.
The ups and downs of friendship
Every true friendship will go through seasons of closeness and times of drift. We may even have conflict with our friends. It can feel easy to walk away from a relationship and put up a wall where a connection used to be strong. While that temporarily guards our heart from deep pain, in the long haul, sticking with a friend through hard times will pay off in ways you never imagined.
In each of my closest relationships, I have weathered times where we both got busy and didn’t connect as often. I can think of one friendship where we had a misunderstanding and didn’t talk for almost nine months.
My courageous friend reached out to me one day after this cavernous space between us had become something we both accepted. We talked through our experience and discovered how we both had drawn conclusions that weren’t right. Almost a year had been lost because we couldn’t overcome a hurtful situation. We promised one another never to let that kind of confusion come between us again.
Invest in friendship
If you are blessed enough to already have some precious friendships, cherish them and think about how you can pour more into those relationships.
If you are in a season where you are feeling lonely and longing for deeper connection, think of a few people you can pursue. Instead of looking for them to fill empty places in your heart, go to God with your longings and allow His love to fill you. Then, start to think about small ways you can reach out and bless these women. Be the friend you long to have.