From an early age, we all seem to have a desire to make friends. Even my young daughters crave relationships in their lives outside of their immediate family. As we grow older, however, we learn that friendships can be both rewarding and painful. Experiencing peace when it comes to your friendships is sometimes easier said than done.
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- Remember the purpose of friendship.
1) Companionship/Love – We were created as relational beings. Even in the Garden of Eden, God said that it wasn’t good for man to be alone. As relational beings, we all desire to love and to be loved. It’s a built-in need that friendships meet in our lives.
2) Encouragement/Strength – As we go through life, we will experience hardships and trials. But friendships give us the strength to endure. We can lean on each other as we go through difficult times, and we can be each other’s strength when we feel we can’t go on. We also support one another as we help our friends who are going through things we ourselves have already gone through.
3) Accountability/Growth – The Bible tells us that as iron sharpens iron, we sharpen one another. (Proverbs 27:17) Perhaps this is the part of friendship we struggle with the most. Growth is essential, but it can also hurt. Iron sharpens iron through friction. It’s necessary, but the process isn’t always fun. We are called to keep each other accountable as we serve Christ, and challenge one another to grow… even when it’s hard to hear.
Recalling the true purpose of friendship helps us keep things in perspective. We not only remember what it means to BE a friend, but we remember that friendships take effort. Experiencing peace when it comes to your friendships requires you to be selfless in your thinking. You give instead of taking, and you forgive instead of becoming bitter.
- Do EVERYTHING you can to keep peace.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. – Romans 12:18
1) Seek forgiveness when necessary. – It’s hard to admit when we’re wrong. Humility is definitely hard when we have to face the consequences of our actions. But nothing destroys friendships faster than pride.
2) Turn the other cheek. – When someone hurts us, it isn’t generally our instinct to put ourselves in a position to be hurt again. But this is exactly what “turning the other cheek” looks like. Now, Jesus wasn’t saying that we should set ourselves up for a beating, but we are called to forgive unconditionally the way we have been forgiven by God… and that requires vulnerability. Our sin hurts God, it actually grieves the Holy Spirit. Yet when we come to Him for forgiveness, He doesn’t put up a defensive wall just in case we decide to hurt Him again in our sin. He welcomes us with arms open wide.
3) Make every effort to restore relationships. We have all been hurt by people we love because the truth is that people are imperfect and will fail us. At the same time, however, we must remember that we are imperfect too. We fail the people around us all the time. With all of this “failing” going on, it’s easy to see why some people give up on friendships altogether. But this is not how Jesus called us to live. The world will know we are His followers by our love for one another.
Now, there are a few exceptions to consider… God never intended for us to be the victim of abuse. It’s simply not His character. Sometimes, it is best to distance yourself from an abusive situation. But we are not off the hook when it comes to unconditional forgiveness. Another exception is the friend who refuses to make peace, even when you are making an effort. We can’t control the actions of others, only our own. This is why Paul said “If possible…” when speaking of peace in our relationships. We are simply called to do all we can on our end.
- Surrender broken friendships to God.
There will be times when we do all we can, and restoration is simply not possible. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have peace. True peace comes when we surrender our hurts and frustrations to God. Our friendships are no exception.
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
The world knows that we belong to Jesus by our love for one another. That is why it is so important for you to have peace when it comes to your friendships.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.