Friendships truly are a gift from the Lord. They are such a part of our lives, and we are genuinely blessed by those we call our friends. We share a mutual bond that encompasses a multitude of experiences, emotions, and memories over a lifetime. We love, we help, we listen, we lean, we encourage, we rejoice, we mourn, we live. We don’t know what we would do without them. After all, who would meet us for coffee at the quaint cafe across town to drown our woes and challenges, and pour out our joys and excitement? I mean, really, who else would put up with us?
As beautiful as friendships can be, they don’t just happen. Good friendships take much time, effort, and care to create and maintain. I’m sure we all have experienced a friendship that went awry, and if we look back, I’m sure we could pinpoint the reason for its demise. So let’s take a look at some steps we can take to ensure our relationships endure and thrive:
All relationships require time. Spending time with friends leads to quality, lasting relationships. Time invested in friendships is time well spent, as friends are a worthy recipient of our time – we glean from them, they glean from us. Friendships are a give-and-take exchange that is only as strong and healthy as the time put into it. Although time is a very valuable resource, a good relationship demands it in order to succeed. If neither party has much time, then create fruitful ways to use the time you do have. Make sure your expectations of time spent together are the same. If one expects weekly contact and the other monthly contact, there will be problems.
Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times…” (NIV)
Continual, periodic contact of some sort is necessary in order to maintain a friendship. Each party must contribute to the contact; it must be two-sided. Contact can be of any type: phone call, text, email, card, letter – whatever you both determine will work best. Probably, a combination of those is the most practical way to stay in touch. These days, social media can also be a point of contact whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or perhaps even a blog. The only requirement is that it works for both of you and your contact is ongoing.
Proverbs 27:9, “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. (NLT)
As in any relationship, it’s important that each party shows the other that they do, in fact, love and care for each other, which includes staying abreast of what’s going on in their life and the lives of their family members. Hearing with our hearts, taking an interest in their life, offering godly counsel, accepting them completely, being compassionate and sympathetic are all important ingredients for a thriving friendship. Heartfelt conversations, cards, letters, prayers, and priority are all necessary, especially when one person is going through a difficult time in their life, during which, extra care, comfort and time will be required until they’re on the other side. Many times love requires sacrifice, and yes, on occasion, it is required in a friendship. Though, when it means so much to the receiver, it’s an honor and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s good to know that someone loves you, understands you and is rooting for you; however, love and friendship must also be demonstrated. Conversation, prayers and warm thoughts are wonderful, but not enough to nurture a friendship. Thoughtful acts of kindness are needed to round it out. Just as we need to be doers of the Word and not just hearers, it is likewise for friendships. We need to show our friends that we care about them. Sending a card, making a meal, buying a small gift, watching or driving their children, running an errand, meeting for coffee are all thoughtful demonstrations of love and kindness. Base your thoughtful activities on their situation and needs at the time. Be able to see where help is lacking and simply bring it. Don’t ask first – most people will say “no.” Just do it without asking. They will be glad and grateful.
Prov. 3:27, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them.” (NLT)
Last but not least, we should always acknowledge our friendships and be gracious toward the people we have in our lives. Have gratitude for all the times they lift us, encourage us, help us, stand by us, put up with us and love us. In friendships, depending on our circumstances, at times, we’re in a season of receiving and other times we’re in a season of giving. Sometimes when we’re giving, it can be difficult, tedious, frustrating and exhausting. Nonetheless, that’s when we need to remember the love, patience, kindness and time that was poured into us during our seasons of need, and be grateful for what others were willing to sacrifice to us.
John 15:13, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (NLT)
As you cultivate the friendships you’ve been blessed with, remember that it is the Lord who best sustains our relationships; putting Him in the center will guarantee success and enjoyment for the duration. Remember to thank God for the special people He brings into your life whom you have the privilege of calling, friend. After all, God is the giver of all good gifts, especially friends.