At the age of twenty-one, I moved far from home with my husband, who served in the Air Force. It was the first of many transitions in my adult life. Bereft of friends and extended family, I floundered in loneliness until I learned how to make and keep friends. In our current culture, where we can work, shop, go to church, and socialize in isolation online, many people find themselves caught in a lonely wilderness between a plethora of virtual “friends” and a dearth of real relationships. Even worse, many contemplate using new AI technology to create an artificial connection tailored to their exact specifications.
All these efforts at friendship fall short of God’s plan for the people He created. God designed us to live in relationship with others.
"Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NLT)
Human relationships are messy and sometimes unpredictable. Many feel ill-equipped—or maybe even a bit afraid—to jump in. Sometimes, we sit back and wait for someone to drop into our lives. But we don’t need to endure the loneliness of pseudo relationships.
Why not consider implementing these seven ways to make and keep friends to enrich your life?
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1. Draw near to God as your best friend.
“Wait a minute,” I can almost hear you saying. “You just said I need real, in-person friends, and now you’re telling me to make God my best friend. What’s up with that?”
True, we can’t see God. But God is one hundred percent real. Through His Son, Jesus, He draws you into close friendship. Jesus told us, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends” (John 15:15 ESV).
With every human friendship, you assume some risk of disappointment or pain, but friendship with Jesus is completely secure. When you trust Jesus as your Savior and submit your will to His, He becomes your closest friend. He always has time for you. He will never sin against you. As you study His Word, the Bible, He helps you to imitate His character. Your closeness to Him enables you to be a good friend to others.
In Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote about the importance of God as a necessary third “cord” in human relationships. “Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12b NLT). When we anchor human friendships friendship to Christ, relational bonds strengthen.
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2. Pray about your desire for good friendships.
God knows our needs before we even talk to Him about them. And we already established He created us for relationships. Then why, you might wonder, do I need to pray about friendship? Prayer, as much as anything else, is a habit that aligns our will with God’s. As we seek Him, He helps us to submit our desires to His good plan for us. When it comes to friendship, God wants us to choose carefully according to His wisdom.
"Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble." (Proverbs 13:20 NLT)
Friends will influence our character and behavior, so we need God’s help to find people who will not lure us to abandon devotion to Him. We can also encourage friends to depend on Him. As we pray about friendship, we don’t need to tell God how to provide. Instead, we simply state the need and open our hearts to receive from Him. We must remember God’s ways are higher than our ways. Expect God to work outside of the box of our own human reasoning and plans. If He opens a door to a relationship in a way that’s different than we expect, we must be willing to walk through and explore His provision.
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3. Be genuine right from the beginning.
Who doesn’t want to make a great first impression? There’s nothing wrong with this desire—unless it leads us to project a contrived image rather than the reality of ourselves. Ever since the first sin with Adam and Eve, people have been inclined to hide themselves, especially those parts we deem less than adequate. But when we consider Apostle Paul’s declaration, we can choose to be real with others.
"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:10a ESV)
When we remove the mask and reveal our weaknesses, we become a showcase for God’s grace and provision. No, we won’t look perfect, but we will be relatable and real. And we will have opportunities to point friends to the power of God to transform. At a deep level, we all long to be truly known by others. Until we abandon pretense, friendships will remain shallow and unfulfilling.
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4. Invest time and effort to develop deep relationships.
We live in an instantaneous world that promises immediate gratification. A swipe of a screen produces almost anything we need or want. We often apply this expectation to friendships. All good relationships take time and effort sustained over months and years. In our friendship with God, we must invest daily to stay close to Him. In the book of Matthew, Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer as a model for us to communicate with Him. Without interaction every day, our relationship grows cold.
In the same way, we must invest ourselves if we hope to make human friends. We need to hang out where other people hang out. Go to community activities such as civic or hobby clubs, recurring library events, or recreational sports. Serve with people at church on Sunday mornings or join a small group that meets regularly. These activities expose us to friendship potential, but they will take an investment of time.
After we find a friend, we need to tend the relationship. Just as plants will not grow and produce without nourishment and attention from a gardener, friendship will not flourish without time and effort. Friendship blooms when we take the initiative to call and talk about life. ...When we do activities together. ...When we step away from our busy schedules to respond to the needs of the other person.
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5. Exemplify God’s grace in relationships.
In our world today, everyone seems to be nursing some type of grudge. We’re encouraged to find and pounce on the most minute offenses. How can trust possibly develop within that framework? No wonder so many are lonely and disconnected! God shows us a better way.
"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires." (James 1:19-20 NLT)
Because we are imperfect and sinful, even the best of relationships can provide fodder for anger. God tells us to choose to not be offended in those difficult moments. Instead, we choose to apply grace. You may cover an offense with grace in one of the following ways:
- Allow God’s grace to cover the offense and put it behind you. Every thoughtless word or action does not need to be addressed.
- Resist the urge to gossip by repeating the offense to another person. “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends” (Proverbs 16:28).
- Lovingly discuss a recurring issue with your friend following the advice from James 1:19-20. Seek to understand and find a resolution.
- Refuse to allow bitterness to creep into your heart. Bitterness corrupts our hearts and our friendships. God’s enemy, Satan will take advantage of bitterness to wreak havoc in our lives.
As recipients of God’s grace, we are also vessels that pour His grace into the world. Your friendships will flourish if you “look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15a).
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6. Become the friend you want to find and keep.
Instead of waiting for a friend to drop into your lap, why not reach out and be a friend to a perso who is lonely? Practice showing qualities of a good F-R-I-E-N-D found in Proverbs, and you may find yourself with the blessing of an unexpected lifelong relationship.
"Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends." (Proverbs 17:9 NLT)
"There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24 NLT)
"The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense." (Proverbs 10:21 NLT)
"Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them." (Proverbs 3:27 NLT)
"A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need." (Proverbs 17:17 NLT)
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7. Risk your heart in friendship.
Most have heard the saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Rewards rarely come without risk, and relationships are no exception. When we open our hearts to a potential friendship, we stand to gain joy, support, fellowship, and love.
On the other side of the coin, relationships can cause hurt and heartache. If we’ve been burned by a friend in the past, we might be tempted to avoid the risk.
Since God designed us for the fellowship of friendship, we can trust Him with the risks associated with opening our hearts to others. We need not fear the possible pain because God will help us to navigate the choppy waters of human interaction.
Consider opening your heart and home to possible friendship with these ideas:
- Serve in the church nursery or Sunday school.
- Invite coworkers to join you to read and discuss a weekly lunchtime devotion.
- Sign up for a small group at church or offer to host one in your home.
- Call someone to join your next shopping trip.
- Bake cookies and invite some neighbors over for tea.
- Ask someone to get lunch after church with you.
The Opportunity of Friendship
Friendship offers the opportunity for the highest form of love. Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NLT). He risked everything to bring us into His circle of friendship. No doubt friendship brings much personal joy and meaning into our lives, but it serves a higher purpose as well. Relationships allow us to reflect the light of Christ that leads others into a closer relationship with Him.
Which of these seven ways to make and keep friends can you use to enrich your life?
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Originally published Thursday, 16 November 2023.