Written by Paulette Stamper.
Will you allow me to share with you what God has been teaching me about friendships recently?
God never intended for us to “go it alone.” We see God instituting the importance of relationship when He made Eve to be Adam’s companion. Don’t worry; I’m not going to give you a commentary on marriage right now. Just simply consider that God didn’t have to make Eve for Adam. He could have left him alone and Adam would have kept himself company with the animals. (Doesn’t sound so bad to those of us who are naturally introverts and love animals, does it?) But even though the garden and everything in it was perfect, and the relationship between Adam and His maker was perfect, God still chose to create another person with whom Adam could enjoy a relationship.
As hard as I try, I can’t do this alone. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t have friends. God has richly blessed me by surrounding me with many amazing women who inspire me every day. However, here recently God has allowed me to take a few hits from the enemy that I did not see coming. After practically getting the wind knocked out of me, I realized that the battle is all too real and the enemy is much too ferocious to fight him on my own. My natural tendency is to take my battles straight to Jesus and keep them between the two of us. However, He is teaching me that I need to humble myself before others and confess my struggles so they can go into battle by praying with me and for me.
There are some friends who won’t freak out and leave when I’m honest about my struggles. This one is a doosey, isn’t it? I wonder just how many of us, if we were being honest, will admit that we are terrified that if we allow someone to really see us and know our struggles, that they would cut their ties and run for the hills. There are several issues I want to address with this, several “non-truths” the enemy uses to keep us from being honest and vulnerable in our friendships. First, we believe that we are more deeply flawed than anyone else. We believe that no one struggles to the extent that we do and that there is something innately wrong with us. This is simply not true. Scripture tells us that our struggles are common to all humankind. (1 Cor. 10:13) Secondly, we convince ourselves that if we are honest about our struggles, our friends will think we are too messed up and they will leave us for another friend who isn’t as messed up as we are. Listen, sharing our struggles with our friends requires grace on both sides. As we share our struggles, we need to be ready and willing to offer our friends the same grace and acceptance that we hope to receive from them. This thing goes both ways. You have heard the old saying, “If you want a friend, you have to be a friend.” So true, so true. So when you decide to share your heart with someone, make sure that you are ready to treat your friend with the same measure of acceptance and grace you hope to receive.
It really does lessen the burden when it is shared. Learning this one has truly been a gift. First we are to take our burdens, struggles, sins, and heart’s concerns to Jesus. He beckons us to drop our loads of grief, anxiety, and fears onto Him and in doing so, we find our rest in Him. This I have known and have been practicing for quite some time. But what He is teaching me lately is that once I have given Him all of my worries and struggles, He also beckons me to share them with my friends. Here’s the secret: giving them to Jesus first makes it safe to share them with trusted friends. Don’t make the mistake of putting your friends in the place of Jesus. That’s unfair because just as you can’t be Jesus for your friends, neither can they be Jesus for you. However, once your heart is safely in the hands of your Savior, you can share your heart with others and the burden is lighter. What an amazing feeling to know that your friends are approaching God’s throne of grace to pray for you. It pleases our Father when we carry one another’s burdens. Isn’t that what family is for?
Consider Paul. He was strong-willed, determined and focused. It seemed that nothing could deter him from serving Jesus; including anything from ridicule to physical beatings and imprisonments. He knew beyond a doubt that he had been rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light and that God had set him apart from birth for His glory. And yet, Paul chose not to go it alone. He chose to invest in a few friendships that would help him in his mission and help carry his load. He chose men who understood his passions and loved Jesus with the same fervor that he did. If Paul needed deep friendships, what makes us think we can go without?
–Adapted from “Rescued: A Journey from Darkness to Light” by Paulette Stamper
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