Intimacy. Love. Covenant.
All words that can be used to describe…romance? Well, yes, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about here.
I’m going to talk about a relationship that gets painfully neglected in Western churches but which may be the one most important relationship in our entire lives: friendship.
Why is friendship so important?
Well, for one thing, it’s important because it plays a part in all our other relationships.
God must become more than a concept. He must become a friend. Our brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers must be our friends in order for there to be any fruit and peace in the home. And any romance can only blossom out of friendship.
Secondly, it’s important because as the Proverbs say, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20).
Our friendships don’t only give us fulfillment, love, and care—they also shape us into the people we’ll become.
So we have to choose our friends wisely. But it doesn’t stop there. We also have to develop our friendships wisely. It’s not just about who…but how.
Intimacy. Love. Covenant. Those awkward words that must be a part of every relationship, whether romantic, familial, or friendal(?). Those are the hows of friendship.
Don’t we all crave real, raw friendships where we can know and be known? In other words, don’t we crave intimacy?
I know I do, and I believe any friendship that isn’t built on that sort of intimacy is no friendship at all.
That’s why I call intimacy a how (a building block) of friendship. But how do you how?
How can you reach intimacy? How do you develop friendship? Where do you start?
It can feel like a constant balancing act, as you navigate the tension between sharing your life and avoiding gossip. Being intimate and not exposing yourself. Being close enough to feel like someone knows you, without being close enough to get hurt (or not).
Here are seven lessons I’ve learned about developing godly friendships.
1. Your openness sets a precedent for the friendship. So be open.
In an interview on writing, Donald Miller says this:
“When we’re vulnerable, we’re giving the reader something they could use against us. And, they could make fun of us. They could think less of us. They could judge us. And for whatever reason, when you give somebody something they could use against you, it creates a bond. It creates trust, because it’s like handing you a gun. And now you feel safe because you’re the one with the gun.”
It’s the same with friendship. It feels unsafe to hand someone a gun. It feels unsafe to be vulnerable. But if we want others to be vulnerable with us, we have to set a precedent. We have to let things be awkward and initiate the awkwardness. We might get hurt. We might get betrayed.
But think about this.
If someone opened up to you, what would you do? Would you tell the world all their secrets, or would you see this as an invitation for a more fruitful, deeper relationship?
If you want real friendship, you have to be willing to risk pain.
2. Be quiet.
We have to be open if we want others to be open with us. It’s as simple as the golden rule: “[A]s you wish that others would do to you, do so to them” (Luke 6:31).
But you have to take this principle all the way.
Of course, you hate awkwardness. Or at least, you think you do. But you and I both have things we wish wouldn’t be awkward to talk about. Things we wish we could share with at least someone without being judged. We want to be understood.
And so do our friends.
So as much as we want to be open and initiate, we have to leave room for others to talk. The other person wants to share stuff too. We have to know when to talk and when to be quiet.
We have to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Sometimes, that means shutting our mouth. And sometimes that means we need to…
3. Ask hard, awkward questions.
No one likes initiating awkwardness. No one likes talking about their secrets. They want to be asked. They want someone to find them.
So, unfortunately, the awkwardness is on us…again.
Ask the hard question. If you sense something going on with your friend, don’t be afraid to ask about it, even though it can be really, really awkward and scary. But that’s when the Holy Spirit meets us.
4. Don’t ask too many questions.
You want your friend to bring things up. If you ask something and they don’t want to answer, don’t push. You can’t force them to be open. The friendship has to be just as much theirs as yours. And, as I’ll expound on in my next point, friendships take time. So wait until the other person wants to open up to you.
As my dad told me once, “Don’t pull out the carrot to see whether it’s growing. Leave it, and let it grow.”
5. Patience is key.
No matter where you start a friendship, there is always room for growth. You might be soul mates from the get-go (1 Samuel 18:1), but your friendship still has maturing to do. No friendship is going to be deep and real at the beginning. No two friends are going to be completely open with each other from the start, and you can’t expect them to.
It’s a process. You grow. They grow. You grow as friends.
6. Be careful about how you share your struggles.
Don’t gossip. Don’t lick wounds. Think about how it’ll affect the other person, and don’t complain!
7. This friendship is about God, not you.
Throughout the Bible, the best friendships are the ones that are built on God. And I know from experience, praying with friends is one of the most fulfilling things you could do.
But I also know that even when I’m surrounded with Christian friends who love to talk about God, my study of God and His Word can be fueled by wanting to show off to my friends rather than my friendships being fueled by my love for God.
But our friendships are supposed to be about God. He should be the center.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” – Matthew 18:20
Oh, and would you look at that: two or three. Well, that’s a topic for another time, but friendships as groups and as families can be great for everyone involved.
May God bless you as you search for intimacy in Him!
What advice do you have for cultivating godly friendships? Commennt below, and let me know what you’ve learned about making friends through this crazy process of life!
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