Numerous books on loneliness and friendship have been published lately. I read recently that loneliness threatens many Americans’ health and well-being. It doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender, or life’s twists and turns. Why does it matter? And how do the truths of the gospel apply in this sensitive area of our lives?
Loneliness is significant. Margaret Osborne (2023), a daily correspondent for the Smithsonian Magazine, writes, “Loneliness can increase the risk of premature death by 26 percent and raise the likelihood of heart disease, stroke, anxiety, depression, and dementia”. Loneliness affects us physically but also spiritually.
Friendship Begins With God
Friendship began in the heart and mind of God. We see the theme of friendship throughout scripture. God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening. Their sin broke that fellowship they had with God. The narrative throughout the Old Testament is about God committing to restore that friendship with His people. In the New Testament, Jesus befriends sinners, caring for and eating with them. Jesus told His disciples, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NIV).
When we accept the gift of salvation purchased by the blood of Jesus, we become members of God’s family and His friends. We are also friends with all of his family, meant to live in community and share the ministry of reconciliation, inviting others into friendship with God. The Gospel Coalition (2016) quotes Keller: “The entire history of redemption—in a sense—is a giant, cosmic act of friendship.”
In other words, the gospel of Jesus Christ does not simply send you deeper into the heart of God than you ever thought you would go or deeper into the heart of the hurting world than you ever thought you would go, but it sends you deeper into the heart of other brothers and sisters in Christ, giving you profundity and intimacy of relationships beyond anything you ever thought was possible with any other human being.Gospel in Life, 2022
If friendship is God’s idea and necessary for abundant living, what can we do to grow in this area? Here are just a few ideas to consider:
Ask God to reveal any hidden sin about friendships and confess what He shows you. Ask Him to help you know who to befriend and how to be a good friend. He is our ultimate friend! Don’t underestimate God’s interest and desire to walk with you in every aspect of life.
True friendship will require intentional practice. Friendship doesn’t just happen. Even in our busy lives, we pursue what we value. If we value friendships, we will make time for them. Ask God to direct your thoughts and steps each day to intentionally make time to be a friend. Check-in with someone today – text, email, call, or even mail a card!
Invite someone to have coffee, a play date, or a visit. Hospitality is not about a clean house or fancy food; it’s about being interested enough in another person to want to see and talk to them. Make a list of 3 to 5 women (or couples, if this is a family goal) you want to know better. Invite them! Send a simple text, “I’d love to get to know you better! Could we meet up – pencil a date on our calendar? What does the next week look like for you?” Pursuing past the initial invite is also important. How might you pray for that potential friend? How might you serve them?
As Christians, we must take friendship seriously. Why? Because following Jesus is an individual decision, not an individual assignment. We are a chosen race, not a chosen person. We are a royal priesthood, not a royal priest. We are a holy nation, a people for his own possession. We are not on this journey by ourselves. In fact, our ability to walk in close-knit unity with one another validates Jesus’ coming to the watching world (Needham, 2018).
Embracing the art of friendship is one way to weave the
gospel’s transformative power into the tapestry of our lives.
Gospel in Life. (2022, August 3). Spiritual Friendship – Timothy Keller [Sermon] [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9iUYsQuY3w
Needham, K. (2018). I’m writing a book — Kelly Needham. Kelly Needham. https://kellyneedham.com/posts/2018/6/8/im-writing-a-book
Osborne, M. (2023, May 10). An ‘Epidemic’ of Loneliness Threatens Health of Americans, Surgeon General Says. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/an-epidemic-of-loneliness-threatenes-health-of-americans-surgeon-general-says-180982142/#:~:text=Americans%20are%20facing%20an%20epidemic,in%20a%20statement%20last%20week
The Gospel Coalition. (2016, June 16). “The entire history of redemption—in a sense—is a giant, cosmic act of friendship.”—Timothy Keller [Image attached] [Status update]. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/thegospelcoalition/photos/a.10150852986647723/10153432452667723