I don’t know why friendships are so hard. But we all know they are.
People move away. People hurt you. People run away from something that could be so beautiful because of their own pain and insecurity.
And you’re left alone, wondering when the Lord will see fit to give you a true iron sharpens iron friend. Someone who will be your sister in Christ, in good times and in bad.
I know. I’ve been there. I’m sure we all have.
I’ve watched friendships fall apart, and I’ve navigated the very messy waters of restoration and finding new normals for new seasons. I’ve seen new friendships blossom, while others fizzle out. And through it all, I’ve learned what true Gospel-centered community looks like.
And sadly, very very very rare.
Putting yourself out there is scary and vulnerable. But the risk is worth the reward. Even more than that, the risk is expected of us as believers.
In the past few years, God has been dealing with some very hard things in my friendships. It has been painful and at times I’ve wanted to hide from the world and nurse my wounds. It’s also been scary as I wonder what good He could be bringing out of some of these situations.
But now, I’m so grateful for those hard friendships. I’m humbled at all the things He has opened my eyes to because of them. And I’m amazed at the beauty He is continuing to cultivate out of that brokenness.
In a recent post, Discipleship in Not a Hashtag, I talked about the importance of face to face community with other sisters in Christ. I also shared about a small group of women I am a part of who are committed to each other as we grow, both in our walks with the Lord and in our friendships with one another.
That post was a small spark that has lit a blazing fire in my life lately. As any writer will tell you, we frequently use our writings to preach to ourselves, and this post was no different.
The truth is: I looked at my blog as my ministry. Which it is! And I love the community we have here! BUT I failed to see that while I was pouring into this online ministry, I was failing in my relationships with real-life friends. I was failing to see how many women around me are hurting and broken. I was failing to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the women who are right under my nose.
If you have been feeling disconnected from other believers, or if you know you need to do a better job at growing the friendships Christ has already given you, here are seven ways to cultivate that authentic community.
1 – Start a small group Bible study. Have a specific start and end date and commit those weeks to pouring into others in the group as much as you can. Schedule time in your week to meet as you share what you have learned in your daily studies. Reach out individually to women. Offer to grab coffee or meet up for a playdate.
2 – Attend a women’s Bible study that has already started in a local church. If you are part of a church, ask around to see if there are already any groups that have already started. If there aren’t, start one. If there are, commit to joining one and meeting fellow believers.
3 – Host one or two couples over for dinner or a cookout. My husband and I love to entertain other couples. It always deepens our friendships and is a time of encouragement. Until recently, we had a little rancher and could only host one couple at a time. But we never let that discourage us from hosting. We have developed several quality friendships with other families because of our investment of one on one time in those years.
4 – Be a friend to others first. Reach out with a quick text to let that person know you are thinking of them. Ask a friend to get dinner so you can share your heart about some things. When you put yourself out there first, you will be amazed at how much others will open up in return.
5 – Make community a high priority in your schedule. Whether you commit to a weekly Bible study, or have a bi-monthly girls’ night where you can dive into life issues and study the Word together, honor that time and commit to it 100%. Maybe you can pick one night a week where you can host another family or two for dinner and be committed to building the friendships you already have once a week. It takes time to build authentic friendships, so make the time to do it!
6 – Stop thinking of yourself. Seriously. Instead of thinking “what can you do for me?” have the mindset “what can I do for you?” When you live your life for others, you are filled with so much joy and peace and freedom. You learn to be selfless. You learn to forgive easier because you understand the hurts and insecurities that are the root problem instead of taking everything so personally. When you commit to serve others, regardless of if they’ve hurt you or will hurt you in the future, you are living the Gospel out loud. And it is beautiful!
7 – Attend a local church faithfully. If you have been going from one church to the next, find one you can call home. Until you commit to a local body of believers, you are missing out on one of the most beautiful parts of being a believer, the community He has provided us to do life with. Stop running from it. Prayerfully consider your options, think about where you feel most comfortable and which church might line up the most with what the Bible says is true, and commit to attend faithfully. Meet other people there. It’s a big commitment, but put yourself out there.
In all of my heartache, I’ve learned to truly love others freely. To expect nothing in return. To know there is a good chance someone might hurt me or betray my confidence. To see these women as Christ sees them: broken, hurting, insecure, in desperate need of surrendering to their Savior.
Stepping out in obedience in building these friendships is difficult. But when you obey this call to cultivate Christ-centered friendships, the Lord will honor that. When you look at friendships through the lens of “How can I help them?” instead of “How can they help me?” you will be richly rewarded with a freedom to love the way Christ loves.
It will look different for every person. And it might look different in every season of life. The point is, it should be there!
As you continue to grow in your community, please know that I am right there with you! And I am praying for you every step of the way.