We’re talking about friendships with my buddy Keri Lee from Free to Fly Ministries again this week. Check out last week’s post where she laments her “black thumbs” when it comes to caring for houseplants but offers Biblical wisdom on caring for our friendships. Such good reminders for me!
This week, though, I asked her, “What about when the relationship ends despite best efforts?” Here are her thoughts and encouragement to get out there and try again.
Occasionally no matter how hard we try, a friendship ends. Our children end up on different soccer teams or assigned to separate schools. The transition might even be easy as time passes, and we simply don’t run into each other anymore.
More dramatic are the ones who seem to survive through several transitions that we celebrate only to have the blossom plucked off, just like my poor houseplants, by an argument, betrayal, or other conflict. Whether we are to blame for the conflict or not, how we respond is key to the long-term result. We are human, we all sin, and we will make mistakes in friendships.
Asking for and extending forgiveness is necessary to move towards rebuilding: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Jesus is clear in Matthew 5:7 that if we wish to receive mercy from Him, we need to offer it to others as well.
However, even if forgiveness and mercy are flowing, we may need some time apart, temporarily or more permanently. Hurt feelings or damaged trust need time to heal and that is OK! Even Paul and Barnabas had a major disagreement and needed to separate to continue being used by God (see Acts 15:36-41).
If God allows reconciliation, then you can come back together stronger, having survived the conflict. Even if the relationship never looks the way it did before, you can still move forward with mutual respect as fellow members of the body of Christ.
Sometimes, though, a friendship ends permanently due to a deep wounding where there has been no repentance by the other person and no path toward reconciliation. This is difficult, especially when you have walked together in the faith. David experienced this and wrote about it in Psalm 55. It is worth reading the whole thing, but here are a few verses:
For it is not an enemy who taunts me— then I could bear it;
It is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng. (Psalm 55:12-14)
Ugh…I have felt that pain, and I am sure most of you have, too. However, David does not stay in despair. Instead, he ends in verse 23 with six powerful words:
But I will trust in You.
When we must step out of a relationship or watch a dear friend walk away (whether they have given us a reason or not), God is there. We can trust Him to ease the pain, mature us individually, and help us move on.
So, are you ready to move on? Is searching for a new friend worth the trouble and pain of possibly watching the flowers fall off? Should we toss out the idea of new friendships altogether?
The One who created our hearts tells us in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” The need for friendship and companionship was planted in our souls.
God built us to work with each other and hold each other up as we walk through this life. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens. And so fulfill the law of Christ.” So, it IS worth it to reach out and build relationships so we won’t have to endure our struggles alone, and because we are called to do so by God!
We have all faced times where it seems like there are no flowers left on our friendship plant. All the loveliness that friendship brings is gone and in our hearts we may want to build a wall to keep out the pain.
Nevertheless, before we write off friendship forever, we need to take a good look at the friendship plant in our hearts. You see, God put it there: He is the Master Gardener! He gave us the ability to build attachment with people. We can nourish that ability while we heal and move forward.
Are our plants’ leaves still green and healthy? Do we need to water them a little more often with God’s Word so grace for ourselves and our friends can grow there? We need far more of God’s word than an orchid needs water, so dig into His word daily, not only on Sundays! And we need to share what we learn so we don’t get stagnant!
Have we given our friendship plants too much sunlight and put our business up for all to see on social media? It might be time to take a break from sharing all our feelings with the world and invest in personal time under the pure light of God’s presence.
Is it time to replant it in a bigger pot and extend our friendship to more people? We may be missing out on new friendship opportunities because we are afraid to go outside our comfort zones.
Do our plants need to be released from some of the walls we have put around them? God told us in Joshua 1:8 to be courageous. Be brave and trust again. Friendship is worth it!!
When our leaves are green, our focus is Christ, and we venture out with a friendly heart, then we will grow many flowers! Each friendship will play an important part in maturing the soil of our hearts. Wonderfully, we will have the opportunity to be a bloom on their friendship plant as well. We can choose to remember that phrase from Psalm 55:23, But I will trust in You, and the one from Proverbs 18:24, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” Then, we will be as lovely a blossom as we want our friends to be.
Friendship verses to ponder later: Luke 6:31; Ephesians 4:29-32; John 15:12-15; Acts 15; Psalm 55; Proverbs 6:1-5, 12:26, 13:20, 14:20, 16:28, 18:24, 27:5-6