Christian women of all ages are racked by the stinging pangs of loneliness. We don’t have to look very far to see it.
There she is:
…The young girl on the playground, longing to be invited to join the foursquare game.
…The preteen, standing in a crowded cafeteria, longing to be invited to join a table.
…The high schooler, longing to be invited to join the group going to the football game.
…The young mom, scrolling social media, longing to be invited to join the others for coffee.
Many view this intense longing as weakness. However, it is most definitely not. Instead, it is part of God’s perfect design. We long to belong because we were created in His image.
IN HIS IMAGE
Genesis chapter one reveals an important truth regarding our longing. The God of the universe, Creator of all things, exists in community (Genesis 1:26). He is a social God, living within the community and relationship of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One God, three persons.
The book of Genesis also tells us that God created a communal being (Adam). And it tells us that without a suitable companion for Adam, creation was incomplete (Genesis 2:18). Adam needed community.
Logical reasoning, then, leads us to surmise that since we were made in the image of God, we, too, were created for community and relationship.
TRUTH – God’s perfect design for us includes community, relationships, circles of friends, and bosom buddies. Yet, statistics show that we are not doing so well at living by this design.
In fact, research studies show that many Americans say they have no one in whom to confide, feel left out, and lack companionship. And the numbers keep going up. Loneliness is on the rise!
WHY ARE WE MISSING THE MARK?
At this point, a question begs to be asked. “If God designed us for relationships, why is it such a struggle to form and maintain them?”
Honestly, there are probably more reasons than we can count, but here are just a few.
The increased mobility of our society stands as a huge obstacle in the forming and maintaining of friendships. So much energy is required to acclimate to a new city, make a house a home, and get children connected that most women are left wondering how in the world they will ever be able to maintain the friendships left behind let alone forge new ones.
Another monumental obstacle standing in the way of our friendships is social media. Of course, not all social media is bad, but some aspects are certainly harmful. For instance, in this world where profiles and feeds contain only the fabulous and unrealistic, it is difficult for most to feel friend worthy.
Mistaking Fellowship for Friendship
A third obstacle to our living in God’s perfect and glorious design is that in the church world, we tend to mistake fellowship for friendship. Fellowship is that special sense of companionship that is experienced among believers based on their unity in Christ. It’s gathering for potluck dinners, meeting for coffee, and lingering in the sanctuary after Sunday morning service. Fellowship is a good thing. Fellowship is a necessary thing. But it is not friendship.
Adopting a Cultural View of Friendship
In their book, Friends and Friendship, Jerry and Mary White, define biblical friendship as “A trusted confidant to whom I am mutually drawn as a companion and an ally, whose love for me is not dependent on my performance, and whose influence draws me closer to God.”
And in his book, The Company We Keep, Jonathan Holmes says, “Biblical friendship exists when two or more people, bound together by a common faith in Jesus Christ, pursue him and his kingdom with intentionality and vulnerability. Rather than serving as an end in itself, biblical friendship serves primarily to bring glory to Christ, who brought us into friendship with the Father. It is indispensable to the work of the gospel in the earth, and an essential element of what God created us for.”
May I ask? How do these definitions of friendship as defined by the Bible compare to the friendship we see portrayed in our culture – movies, books, social media?
If we truly want the friendships that our hearts are longing for, perhaps it’s time we stopped settling for culture’s definition.
Since friendship is God’s handiwork, it stands to reason, then, that the best place to learn to live within its design is in His Word. Where it might surprise you to learn, friendship is spoken about more than most of us realize.
We’ve already mentioned the perfect friendship that exists between the three persons of the Trinity. In 1 John 4:8 we read that, “God is love.” This is not mere sentiment, but a declaration of His nature – a nature that is shared by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It’s a covenantal love that is eternal and expresses itself to His people.
Friendship is not exclusive to the Trinity. For example, many passages in the Old Testament teach us about this important relationship. In the book of Ruth, we learn that friends love even when it’s hard and across generational lines. First Samuel shows us that friendship is a covenant involving mutual love and the knitting of souls. In Proverbs, we discover that friends love at all times, stick close, and help each other grow. And in Ecclesiastes we learn that two are better than one and that the best friendships include Jesus.
Much can also be found in the New Testament regarding God’s design for friendship. In the book of Acts, we find that friends follow Jesus together, serve Him together, and watch out for each other. Second Timothy talks of friends having a front row seat to each other’s lives, and First Corinthians reveals that our friend’s character matters.
An Essential Element
Above all, friendship as defined by the Bible is explicitly Christ-centered.
In Colossians 1:15-23, Paul describes our unredeemed state – alienation and isolation from God. Left unaddressed, this vertical situation would leave us incapable of moving horizontally toward others in friendship.
Thankfully, we can be made right in our relationship with God because of the Good News of the Gospel. In His great love, God sent His One and Only Son to redeem us. Jesus, completely and wholly perfect, stood in our place and was condemned for our sin. Through His death and resurrection, we, who were once alienated and isolated, were brought near.
Let the words of John sink in. Jesus calls you His friend!
This fact should fill our hearts to overflowing. Jesus, the One in whom the fullness of God dwells, the One who became flesh and dwelt among us, the One who bore our sins and died for us, calls us friend.
This is what makes biblical friendship distinct from the friendship of our culture. It is centered on Jesus.
What implications does the fact that biblical friendship is explicitly centered on Jesus Christ have on your longings and your earthly friendships?
Christian women of all ages are racked by the stinging pangs of loneliness. We wonder why it seems so difficult to form genuine friendships even with those in our church, or if there will ever be anyone who accepts us just the way we are. We look around and ask ourselves if there is more to friendship than what we see around us. And we ask ourselves hard questions. What does biblical friendship look like? What are the expectations for such a friendship? How in the world can I get there?
In this six-week Bible study, Deborah inspires us to break free from the snares of loneliness and equips us to establish friendships the way God intended. We don’t have to settle for mediocre, superficial friendships, because we were created for so much more.