“I love her, but it’s not healthy for me to have that kind of negativity in my life. I have to do the right thing for myself.”
“Yeah, he apologized, but I don’t think I can trust him the same way anymore.”
“Can we really be friends when we don’t agree about something so important?”
Proverbs 13:20 cautions, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” We need to be careful about who we spend time and share confidences with. However, maybe we’re becoming too quick to say goodbye.
Created for Relationship
God created us for relationships. We were uniquely designed at the beginning of time to fellowship with him. He implemented marriage to prevent mankind from living alone. The New Testament is filled with exhortations for unity and fellowship among Christians. Jesus himself said that the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love your neighbor. Right now there are a lot of conversations going on about how starved people are for meaningful connection and strong community. So how can we build friendships that last when the going gets tough?
A Few Questions
Next time you feel like giving up on a friendship, or don’t want to fight what seems like an inevitable drifting apart, try asking yourself a few questions.
1. Have I prayed about the situation? Have I prayed for my friend?
I don’t know about you, but prayer isn’t a natural default for me. Too often I get worked up about something and have to be reminded to pray instead of stew in worry, anger, or frustration. If you’re anything like me, you might find that prayer nudges your emotions away from the steering wheel. Prayer has a way of changing the heart of the prayer. It might take time—sometimes a lot of time—for you to see a tangible answer to your prayers. In the meantime, it’s likely your heart will turn towards your friend in love instead of continuing on its path of separation.
2. Is there a problem or just preference?
Take a step back and ask yourself if the behavior you’re upset about is a real problem, or just something that bothers you. Take the time to dig into the Scripture and align your thinking to God’s. If it’s not a problem in his Book, consider letting go of it as a problem in yours. If it’s a problem in both and you feel like you should confront your friend about it, revert to the first question before springing into action. I’ve caused more damage than good every time I’ve whopped friends over the head with Scripture without praying about it first and moving forward in humility.
3. What’s going on in my friend’s life?
Often, friendship gets tough because people change. The friend you loved spending time with isn’t as bubbly and fun anymore. The person you’ve always gone to when you need to talk isn’t there for you in the same way. Maybe we’re growing apart, you tell yourself. Maybe this season of friendship is coming to a close. Sometimes friendships do drift apart, but before you accept that fate, take the time to figure out what your friend is going through. Maybe your friend isn’t as bubbly because someone in her family died. Maybe your friend isn’t available when you want to talk because he’s struggling with keeping up at school or work. In my experience, changes in a friend often mean they’re walking through something challenging and need you by their side more than ever. Don’t give up easily. Your friend might desperately need you to take the time and effort to dig deep.
Often the best friendships are on the other side of challenges. One of my friends and I have known each other for most of our lives, and we’ve been friends for thirteen years. We’re as opposite as it comes. Recently we were talking about some of the differences of opinions and seasons of life we’ve weathered together. She commented that when friends disagree about something or find it hard to connect, they either drift apart and the friendship ends or they figure out how to make it work. She said she thinks “making it work” creates a pattern. Every time you work through a problem instead of walking away, you make it a habit you’re more likely to default to next time something comes up.
Even with prayer, grace, and the best intentions, friendships sometimes fade or crumble. I’m not saying they won’t. But I firmly believe the world at large and the Christian community especially would benefit from a habit of looking deeper before letting friendships slip through our fingers.