Friendship is not strictly a way for our needs to be met.
Friendship is not all about you or me.
God may give you “friends” that you wish He never sent your way. Sometimes people are draining and moody, tiresome and just plain not who you’d choose to hang out with. (Sometimes we compensate by seeking “authentic community.”) People are problematic. We all are at some point.
So what do we do with these friendships that are all over the place. We listed the different types of friendships last week and said that each type of friendship comes with its own set of expectations–care labels if you will.
When you are considering buying a new shirt, you check the care label to make sure you can actually afford to care for this blouse. If it says “machine wash cold,” you know you can handle that. If it says “dry clean only” then you might think twice before purchasing it. Forethought and care must go into our friendships. We don’t take home a blouse and then get angry that it wasn’t a pair of comfortable jeans. We don’t wash each garment the same. We read care labels. We evaluate whether our piece needs bleach, fabric softener, lavender or pre-treatment.
And unlike blouses, sometimes we don’t get to choose our friendships. Sometimes we are thrown into a “mix” that we’re not happy about. Perhaps you have a new brother-in-law who is extremely unlovable. Perhaps your neighbors turn out to be the Munsters. Perhaps you are in a ministry team with one of those “prickly” people. There’s not much you can do to get out of these relationships. In fact, God ordained these relationships and He has a reason for them. Maybe He wants to use you for His own kingdom purposes; maybe He’ll use this person to refine you, sanding away your own rough edges by giving you time after painful time of grief (courtesy of this prickly person) where your own humility will be tested. Sometimes God is testing our humility, refining our resolve to do right or just testing our willingness to follow Him. We don’t always know the reasons, but we can be sure that He doesn’t want us to sin. In fact, when we sin, we become part of the problem.
So, as you think about your relationships, ask:
1. What does God expect from me today? He does expect you to obey his word toward this person, loving your neighbor as you do yourself, exhibiting 1 Cor. 13 kind of love. You can’t do this if you are not God focused throughout your day.
2. Am I looking for fulfillment in this friendship or in Christ alone? There’s nothing wrong with enjoying and benefitting from a friendship. But when your desires for friendship become demands, that is where the problem lies. To have that desire is normal, but any time we become demanding and dependent on anything other than God, we put ourself on track to sin (“my will be done” vs “Thy will be done.”) and we become desperate in our pursuit of our idol.
This quote from Elyse Fitzpatrick about things that become idols in our lives is revealing:
“If you are willing to sin to obtain your goal or if you sin when you don’t get what you want, then your desire has taken God’s place and you’re functioning as an idolater.”
This of course can apply to anything in our lives: power, influence, money, s*x, sleep, drugs, comfort, respect or friendship.
Tomorrow we’ll look at ways to safeguard yourself from unrealistic expectations and how to meet the needs of others in our friendships.