Initiate New Friendships

by Mary Somerville

As we gain new strength and comfort through the Word and prayer-casting our care upon Him-we can initiate friendships. Loneliness can come from a focus on self.  "Why am I feeling left out? Why is no one reaching out to me?"  Real joy is found in giving our lives away for others and for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

So if you are frustrated because your phone never rings to see how you are doing or for social purposes-only when there's a need, you pick up the phone and call to see how someone is doing and set up social opportunities. Jesus said, "Just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way" (Luke 6:31).

You may be lonely when in a group of people because you don't connect with any of them. It could be in church, of all places, or in a women's Bible study. You may think that you are not missed when you are not there, left out of things, or just not noticed. Then look for someone who is lonelier than you, reach out to that person, notice her, include her. As you take your eyes off of yourself, you will find yourself making friends in the most unexpected places. This is a wonderful thing to teach your children as well.

Our daughter didn't have a lot of friends going into the public high school after three years of home schooling. Because of her Christian stand, she didn't fit in. But the Lord gave her great friends who were the other newcomers or people who were in need of friends.

Not Alone in Being Lonely

If you are lonely because you are new in the community or in a foreign country, you're not alone. If you feel other women may not take you in because they already have their friendships made, you're not stranded. If God called you to leave behind all your familiar places, friends, and family for His Kingdom, He promises others to take their place (Mark 10:30)-a promise He kept for me.

God's plan is for you to have the closest of friends and He expects you to seek them out. "A man who has friends must himself be friendly" (Prov. 18:24). Why not call and invite that woman over for lunch that you think would be a good friend? Invite her and her husband over so you can be friends as couples.

Ministry can set us apart from others unnecessarily. If we experience loneliness because we are in a separate category because our husband is in vocational Christian service, we must break down the barriers. Many women are intimidated by our position, so we may need to make the first move. 

Could it be that people think they have to be more spiritual around us? Maybe that is because we don't share our own struggles with anyone because we are trying to maintain that front or we think they just wouldn't understand. Maybe we always seem glum or down about something and not fun to be around. Some of these things can be changed.

Friends Are Vulnerable

One sure way to overcome loneliness is to choose a few faithful friends with whom we can be vulnerable. How can we bear each other's burdens if we don't have a friend? We need the prayers of our sisters, their loving support, and their counsel. I value the input of my sisters in the Lord so very much and often seek their wisdom.

Do you feel that you are too busy to develop friendships because of your other pressing responsibilities? Perhaps you are in the season of life with small children and you don't get out much. Home schooling may place demands that preclude much contact with others.

My dear sister, if you are too busy to develop these kinds of friendships, then you are too busy. We need good friends to share our lives with. That is part of the special joys of life that we don't want to miss out on. It is also a necessity to keeping us faithful in our Christian lives. The writer of Hebrews exhorts each of us to "encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called Today' lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:13).

Seek a "Best Friend"

Yes, it is impossible to be best friends with every woman in the church. But I believe that we should have at least one or two best friends. Some pastors' wives have been told not to have a "best friend" because that is showing favoritism and might cause jealousy among the other women in the church. I remember speaking on this subject in South Africa and a young pastor's wife who lived in a small, gated gold-mining community was so surprised when I encouraged the wives to seek out a close friend. She was very lonely and had been told it was wrong for her to have a best friend. This advice robbed both her and the women around her of the mutual blessings of close friendships.

David and Jonathan were best of friends. That friendship was a gift from God to David, especially during his time of persecution. If we are experiencing deep friendships, that will be an example to others in the church of the relationships that they each need to be building into their lives for accountability and encouragement. That is why it is better to have a few good friends than a plethora of acquaintances. "A man of many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Prov. 18:24).

Deep friendships take time and consistency to develop. But if you make it a priority and pour into just a few, it will be attainable. My daughter invited a couple of women her age in the church to walk with her once a week. They put their babies in strollers and have great fellowship while also getting some exercise.  In this way she is able to mentor some younger women spiritually and enjoy close friendships with them.

If you are home schooling, find another home school mom who you can get together with once a week to share ideas or to teach a class for you in her special area of expertise. Then you can do the same for her. If another home school mom is not available, find a grandmother figure that you would like to learn from and ask her to get involved.

Don't Overlook Staff

We can also take advantage of ministry partnerships to develop closer friendships. Whatever ministry you are involved in, you should have partners. If you are leading a ladies' Bible study or teaching Sunday school, have an apprentice teacher. If you are regularly visiting or counseling, have an apprentice who will be by your side. As you meet weekly to pray for your ministry and for each other; your friendship will also flourish.

There are many creative ways to blend your responsibilities and friendships. You can shop together, carpool to work, exercise together, cook together, do crafts together, have a Bible study together, take your children to the library or park together. It is possible!

If you longed for a kindred spirit to share with, as Paul had in Timothy, have you considered seeking out another staff wife who may be feeling the same way? She is another one who is fighting in the trenches with you. She understands your situation and will be a great person to share with. If there are no women on your staff, you will still need to reach out and make a few close friends that you can minister to in your own church. There is nothing wrong with even reaching out beyond your church and looking for a friend from another church, or even community, who is in a similar situation as you.

We need not be in the battle alone. There must be others who are in the fight with us that we can gain mutual encouragement from. We cannot let those with whom we work languish in the trenches. We are in this together. We have to let our needs be known if we are the ones in need of fellowship and encouragement-regardless of our field of service.

If you're like me, you may be tempted to give up pursuing deep friendships because just when you get close to someone she moves away or changes churches. Suddenly you are left without a close friend and have to start all over again. This has happened to me many times. As hard as it is, it must not deter us from pursuing another friendship.

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