"A true friend is one who is walking in, when everyone else is walking out.” – Martin Luther
Friendship has a wide variety of meanings today, from casual to serious. As I’ve lived and studied this topic, God has given me some helpful insights to keep my relationships in the right place of priority.
After Jesus, my very best friend is my husband, Mark, which is discussed in our new book Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, & Life Together. We have always enjoyed being around each other, but there were years of our marriage that we neglected to work on our friendship and unfortunately became distant emotionally.We allowed the busyness of life to crowd in and desperately needed to take time and energy to invest in our marriage relationship as Song of Solomon 5:16 says, “This is my beloved and this is my friend.”
After repenting and reorienting our priorities, a healthy and fun friendship has been built. We realized that doing life together, with the good and the hard stuff, is easier when we are moving forward together as friends.
If you aren’t married or already have a good friendship with your husband first, then what does a godly friendship look like with other women? As defined in Webster’s dictionary, a friend is “one attached to another by affection or esteem.” This definition is so general you could call your pet lizard your friend! The Bible gives us a richer meaning of friendship, for example:
“Friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him.” - Psalm 25:14
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my [Jesus] friends if you do what I command you.” - John 15:13–14
“He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.” - Job 6:14
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” - Proverbs 18:24
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” - Proverbs 27:6
“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” - Proverbs 27:9
I don’t have a Facebook account, so I don’t have thousands of “friends,” but before we call someone a friend we should ask if we are truly prioritizing Jesus in the place of best friend. Do you spend time with him, talk/pray with him, listen to him, cry with him, laugh with him?As the verses above pose the questions: Do you follow his commands, knowing that he loves you, created you and knows what is best for you? Are you willing to lay down your life, as Jesus did, for the people you call friends? Are you kind to your friends or do you gossip about them? Do you have tons of “friends” but not anyone you trust and talk to about real life? Are you able to share your pain and wounds with your friends and know they won’t turn them against you like an enemy? Do any of your friendships make your heart glad when they give you counsel?
Unfortunately, few people know how to be a good friend in this day and age. As Christians, we have a prime opportunity to help others understand what a godly relationship can look like. This certainly doesn’t happen overnight, in fact, it takes years to develop a true friendship and not all women want to walk through all seasons of life with you. I have learned how to be a better friend over the years by failing, sinning, repenting, encouraging, listening, being teachable, and allowing the Holy Spirit to mature me in areas that I needed to grow. I still have more to learn about being a godly friend but I am thankful for the grace that has been shown to me through my relationships.
I have learned that some women are acquaintances and some are friends, but the goal is to be friendly to all and friends with a few. This was Jesus’ example to us as he spoke out of love (though his honesty was not always seen that way by the religious people) but had a few close friends.
If you want to be a good friend, it takes time and energy, physically and emotionally. I used to try to be friends with everyone, but as a result I wasn’t a good friend to anyone. I can’t physically be a friend with everyone in my life, but as God brings people I can be friendly and willing to serve them in that moment or season, depending on what God asks.
Signs of a Healthy, Godly Female Friend
1. She will help you grow in your relationship with Christ. If she doesn’t, then you need to make sure you are strong enough to be a witness instead staying stagnant with Jesus. If you aren’t strong enough, then you need to have boundaries or be willing to give up the relationship so that you keep Jesus the priority.
2. She will serve you, and you will serve her. If this is one-sided then you will get taken advantage of or be using her. Friendship isn’t always “even,” but there needs to be mutual serving. If there isn’t, you can kindly confront the issue, and her response will tell you if the friendship is healthy.
3. If you are married, your husband will see her as an asset rather than a hindrance in your marriage. As women, it can tend to be easier for us to be friends with other women than it is with our husband. We more readily share vulnerably with women, confess sin with women, or ask for counsel from women. If our conversations with other women spark division in our marriage it is not godly.
4. When conflict arises or counsel needs to be given, she is willing to both listen and speak into the issue. It is important that both women are teachable or else reconciliation is difficult.
5. As important as healthy friendships are, it is also important to hold them with an “open hand” so that the women don’t become idols whom you worship. She should be someone you enjoy, learn from, and invest in but not someone you put on a pedestal.
I see my friendships as a gift and a blessing and appreciate that they are all different personalities so I can be challenged to grow in areas of my life that I wouldn’t otherwise. My friends don’t just tell me what I want to hear, but they are willing to risk the friendship if it means they are leading me closer to Jesus.
In closing, I would offer a few questions for prayerful consideration:
- How is your friendship with Jesus—really?
- If married, how is your friendship with your husband—really?
- What people truly should be your female friends? Which women should not be your friends?
- How can you be a better friend to your husband and female friends?
- Who has been a good friend to you and what can you do to thank and encourage them this week?