Friendship Series #2: Forever Is No Such Thing
During my growing up years, there was a specific term I used for a particular kind of friend that I had in certain seasons of my life. However, there was this nagging doubt in the back of my mind every time I used it that – someday – It would cease to be true. That's when I vaguely discovered, but have only now learnt, the simple yet hard-to-swallow truth: BFF's do not exist.
Okay, so that’s not entirely true. Some people have been blessed with forever friends who have done life with them for countless years, and are the kind of people to stick by you through thick and thin, warts and all. I do believe that some friendships actually do last a lifetime.
But note I only said “some”.
In my experience, and from observing the experiences of those around me, I believe that not all friendships are made to last forever (everyone who voted “loyalty” on my friendship poll are picking up rocks right about now). But before you stone me, hear me out, and I’ll explain why.
Life changes. Circumstances change. Experiences change. The only surety we have whilst we live and breathe our few short years on this planet is that change is inevitable, and it comes in all shapes and sizes – sizes that not all friendships can fit into. Not only do these things change around us, they also make changes inside us: tastes change, personalities evolve, interests and likes differ from what they used to be, the things you hold sacred (or don’t hold sacred) adapt and bend as you mature in years, or quite simply, your lives take different paths. All these things affect our friendships, be they negative or positive effects, and very rarely do the conditions a friendship is born in remain the same year in and year out. Thus, when two people end up in two different worlds, it’s seldom possible for the friendship to remain the same way it was when it began.
“Now wait a minute,” some of you are saying. “Does that mean the friendship cannot grow or is not worth fighting for? What of loyalty? Would you just throw a friendship away because it no longer meets your requirements?”
No, no, and no. But sometimes you have to critically examine what you consider worth fighting for without being taken in by blind loyalty. Take this example:
If you were in a friendship where you were never listened to, never understood, never invested in, and every attempt you made to build bridges, speak truth, or invest in that person were taken as condemnation or an attack, so you could neither give any input into the relationship nor get any output out of it; loyalty aside, would the relationship be good for either of you?
The answer is no. The Bible frequently states that bad company corrupts good morals (1 Cor. 15:33) and that our relationships with one another should be edifying (Rom. 14:19, 1 Thess. 5:11). If the company of someone is corrupting your faith, and neither party is being edified, then the friendship is a destructive one that should not last forever – for both sakes.
“But what of loyalty? What of ‘love covers a multitude of sins’ and being Jesus’ example of unfailing love?” You say.
Two things. One: there is a difference between being a friend, and a friendship. We are called to shew ourselves friendly (Prov. 18:24) and to owe each other love (Rom. 13:8). And I’m all for that! If anyone rocks up on my doorstep and needs to use the phone, it’s all theirs, and if I happen upon someone crying in the mall bathrooms, I’d be more than happy to be a shoulder they can cry on. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and be living examples of His unconditional love. We are never to withhold anything that is in our hand to give (Prov. 3:27), and this includes kindness, generosity, and love. However, having said that, loving people in this way is different to fellowship. There is no law in the Bible against loving others, but there are ample warnings about who we spend the most of our time with. Friendships are very important, and are not things to be taken lightly. People that you allow into your inner circle help shape your world and your worldview, which in turn, affects your relationship with God. If it is something that will affect that relationship, then I believe it should come under some pretty intense scrutiny. Are your friends pointing you upwards or downwards? Are you willing to sacrifice part of your relationship with your heavenly Father for an earthly friend? However well-meaning you may be, this is actually no help to your friend. Which leads to my second point in response to that question –
You are not Jesus. I know this may seem like the most obvious of statements, but seriously, we sometimes think we are. We think that it’s our job to love someone to freedom, forgive them to repentance, and exhort them to sanctification. This is not true. When friendships get tough, and begin to become a weight on your shoulders to the point you’re a person’s crutch, you are not helping that person. Our friends do not need a crutch, they need a Saviour. They don’t need a prison buddy, they need a Rescuer. They don’t need a packhorse, they need to change yokes. If a relationship gets to the point where they are trying to make you their Jesus, you won’t make a good stand-in, and sticking around for them won’t teach them to walk to God and lean on Him. They will simply continue to limp along on the back of someone else (#HarshTruth). Some friendships simply are not healthy for all involved, and for this reason, should not last forever.
Though a lot of the reasons I’ve mentioned for non-lasting friendships have been negative, sometimes there are positive reasons for a relationship’s end as well. When friends get married, for one. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t believe it’s healthy for a guy who is getting married to have a close friend with some other girl, and vice versa. Marriage is a sacred friendship, and the one you marry should be your best friend. No one else should cut in on that type of relationship, even as a friend. God said a man should cleave unto his wife once he leaves his parents (Gen. 2:24, Eph. 5:28-31), and I don’t believe this applies to just the “married” part of the marriage sense, either. When marriage relationships form between a friend and someone else, for the sake of their relationship, that friendship needs to be released. This isn’t to say you can’t become great friends with the two as a couple. But any "close friend-ness" should between the husband and the wife, not the third wheel. It leads to confiding, which leads to secrets, which can lead to compromise. Simply speaking, there’s a reason God designed marriage for two people only. It should be kept that way.
One last reason not all friendships last forever, is simply that God destines some people to be in your life for a certain length of time. Maybe it was to show you something specific, or teach you something you would need in the future. I have had many friends over the years that have come and gone so quickly, and yet the lessons I learnt and the blessings I received from them have been priceless gifts in the time since. It’s not easy to lose someone, or to say goodbye to what you had with a friend. It can come with regrets and pain, or it can be a joyful time of a new door opened in someone’s life. We may not always understand why some people were in our lives, or what God meant to achieve through them. However we can be reassured that if we are striving to live a life that honours God, and are in obedience to what His will is for us, He will bless every encounter and every friendship with some good, even if it takes us until eternity to see exactly what it was. Which is where I come to my last point:
Above all, Jesus is our closest friend and He is our greatest example when it comes to friendships. Not all Jesus' friends He had whilst on earth were relationships that lasted forever (on earth). He had the 5,000, the 12, the 2, and the 1. His friendships with all those people were different, but He didn't let anyone replace the relationship He had with the Father, and neither should we. It’s guaranteed that friends will come and go our whole lives, but God promises to never leave us nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6). He alone is faithful, He alone never fails. He is always encouraging, always truthful, always loving, ever kind. Countless times He reminds us through His Word that though friends are precious, we are to put our trust and faith in Him alone.
Do not trust in a friend; do not put your confidence in a companion.
– Micah 7:5
It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.Though Proverbs tells us that to have friends we must ourselves be friendly, often we can overlook the latter part of the verse that states: there is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother. That Friend is Jesus. There is no recipe or method for forming a friendship that is guaranteed to last forever, even though there are some that do. They can be strengthened by a foundation of honesty and authenticity, and nurtured by love and respect. But most often, lifetime friends last a lifetime because two people have the same best friend (BFF) in Jesus. He is our mediator, our joy, our strength, our peace, and our comforter. When we allow Him first place in our lives and build our friendships in Him, that is the place true friendships are born, because He alone is a constant presence in our lives Who will never change.
– Psalm 118:8