A couple of years ago a thought crashed into my world that redefined my relationships. "Look for those who want what is in your heart not those who want what is in your hand." It set me on a journey of harnessing my heart to life-giving friendships.
Many people stumble into relationships, yet Jesus was incredibly intentional and selective about His. He didn’t become friends with everyone or just anyone. He prayed about the people He was going to pour His life into, the people who would share His greatest joys and heartaches.
Growing friendships harness their hearts to life
One of Jesus’ closest friends, John, reminds us that although Jesus entered the life of many, He didn't entrust His life to them.“Many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people” @ John 2:23-24. He wasn’t looking for lots of friends, but loyal friends - people who would go with Him and grow with Him. He chose growing friendships with a small inner circle.
Friendship requires wisdom and forethought. We don't normally get married to someone after a few days or dates. Yet many choose friendships after a few casual acquaintances or a handful of life experiences together. Before we can decide whether someone qualifies to be included in our circle of friendships, we have to know what sort of friendship we desire to cultivate in our lives.
Whatever our life-stage, married or single, young or old, it is essential to cultivate growing friendships with people who are growing and committed to their personal growth and the growth of the relationship. None of us want to stagnate, lapsing into self-repeating and self-defeating patterns. None of us want superficial friendships.
We all want friends whom we can call upon, and friends who call us into more.
Not everyone is qualified to be in relationship with you. Make the advance decision to be selective in who enters your life and to whom you will entrust your heart. Cultivate growing friendships where you are constantly being stretched, continually being challenged, and frequently having fun. Choose friends who will chase dreams with you, make sacrifices for you, release your destiny, and to whom you can give yourself fully. And then enjoy the freedom and fruitfulness of that life-giving relationship.
At the same time, remember that some friendships are long haul, and some are seasonal - given by God for a particular moment or time in our lives. While the advent of social media enables us to stay connected and updated with the events of others’ lives on a regular basis, there are times when in order to develop growing life-giving friendships we have to disconnect from old acquaintances. Indeed there are times when God instructs us to do so.
Often when God removes people from your life, it is because there is something they are sabotaging that you cannot see. There is a way that they are perceiving you or presenting you to others that does not promote God’s purpose in your life. When you cling to what He is cutting off, you separate yourself from an area of your future.
More than once the scriptures state that the disciples left everything to follow Jesus. Presumably this also included some friendships that had been formative in their lives. There are some people you cannot take into the destiny God has for you. It’s not that they are unhealthy or unhelpful, it’s simply that their particular design and destiny looks different to yours.
However, there are also relationships that are unhealthy, that hold you back from your design and destiny. Some relationships are not life giving, they damage us, and sabotage the future God has for us. These kinds of relationships don’t lead us towards growth and transformation. Instead they drain life from us. In those moments it’s important to disconnect graciously.
Understand that not every person in your life is sent by God. You may know someone who texts constantly, or demands you immediately respond to their needs or crises. It may be someone who wants you to be exclusively their best friend and becomes jealous or angry when they see you with others. Perhaps it is someone who controls you around their agenda or does not allow you to exercise your opinion.
Recognise the difference between a friendship and a ministry. Ministry can be about helping someone (and there are some very specific boundaries and practices that need to be in place for that to be effective and beneficial), but friendships are always mutual. You can minister to anyone but not just anyone can be your friend. Don’t allow guilt to be the influencing factor in those you choose to spend your heart on.
If any of the above describes your friendships, recognise that you are responsible for your relationships, that there comes a time when you need to disconnect graciously, reset the boundary, and go develop growing friendships that release you and into your destiny, and others into theirs.
One of the best pictures of a growing friendship in scripture is the relationship between prince Jonathan and young David. In David’s darkest moment Jonathan reminded David that God’s purpose would be completed in his life and that he would live to see his dreams mature and his darkness overcome. He declared David’s destiny when all David could see was his enemy. It's what friends do.
Perhaps reflecting on this moment several years later, David’s son Solomon stated, “though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Growing friendships hold us together when everything seems to be falling apart. They do more than express empathy for our pain and loss, they speak Divine destiny into and over us. Every life needs friends who help them live beyond themselves.
Growing friendships happen when those involved in the relationship are irrevocably committed to their own relationship with God first. Jonathan was so committed to God’s purpose that it didn't matter to him if David surpassed him and eventually became king instead of his own father. All Jonathan wanted to do was to seek first the kingdom of God. It made his friendship unique in David’s lifetime, and it stands as a testimony to us now.
As we invest in our friendships, let’s remember how important our ‘first love’ is - that the way we pour our lives our for Him determines the capacity we bring to our relationships. He sets the pattern. He creates the expansive heart in us. Let’s remember that our friendships are designed by Him so that we can take enemy territory together - so that we can slay the giants facing our culture, our communities, our generation, and leave a legacy of hope long after we’re gone.