Discovering the Secret to Beautiful Friendships
“…to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.”
– 1 Thessalonians 3:13 KJV
“I can’t believe they treated me that way!” I vented to my parents on the fifteen-minute car ride home from church. One by one, I spewed out all the evening’s offenses, my words dripping with frustration and pain.
My church youth group’s once fun and easy-going atmosphere had turned into a tense and hurtful one. Week after week, and event after event, I felt the sting of exclusion. All too often circles would form in conversation and I found myself on the outside. As I gathered the nerve to approach, I would remain standing on the outside, unacknowledged. At other times, groups would meet to hang out and I was left uninvited. Wounded and confused, I wondered what was so undesirable about me. My heart began to grow hard with resentment.
The tension was continually growing and I didn’t understand why. I had so quickly become close with the girls at my church, and now I felt isolated and rejected. Where there used to be friendly exchanges between us, an icy curtain now hung. My fragile heart felt shattered, and insecurity seemed to breed upon the broken pieces.
Though I was weighed down by loneliness and strain whenever I attended church, God was not far from me. It was in these times of hardship that the Lord drew me to seek His face. It was through the feelings of pain and rejection that God drew me into His Word and His presence. In His love, He released me from the popularity rat race and beckoned me to the feet of Jesus.
As I learned to build my life around Jesus Christ, He gently opened my heart to His plan for reconciliation. Instead of pointing an accusing finger at my friends, I began to examine my own life. God opened my eyes to see that the disunity that had formed in my friendships at church was a result of my own inward-focused, self-consumed attitude.
Always faithful, God provided the opportunity for me to reconcile with my friends. We met together to pray and talk through our offenses. We cried together, dealt with our individual hurts, and exchanged humble apologies for our sins against one another. Wrongs were made right, and our friendships were mended. The tension melted away and peace rose up in my heart. No longer was I wallowing in self-pity and insecurity. As God turned my focus outward, I finally experienced the beautiful, lasting friendships I’d been longing for.
As young women, most of us have experienced the hurt of rejection in one way or another throughout our lives. The loneliness that results can feel overwhelming. And when the hurt comes from those that are closest to us, we often don’t understand why.
Our fleshly feminine tendency is to let our minds go rampant with stray thoughts and vain imaginings. We catch a look or an attitude of another girl and mentally write a novel about what was really meant by the look. An unbridled mind, coupled with self-pity, is precisely what I had given place to in my life and had allowed to determine my actions. As a result of my inward-focused trance, I caused a lot of damage to my heart and also to my girlfriends who I treated in fleshly and hurtful ways.
Self-focus had removed my eyes from the needs and feelings of others, and from the reality that I had hurt the ones I loved. I had been so consumed with how I was feeling that I became blinded to the intense pain that I was inflicting on them. Through the ashes of my sin and struggle, God has matured me and taught me how to rightly handle my feelings and experiences. To this day, I am continually learning that in any and every situation, the solution is always the same and surprisingly simple: run to Jesus! God is teaching me to ruthlessly take every thought captive, continually surrender all to Jesus, and joyfully turn outward in His love.
Some of the practical ways that God is teaching me to turn upward and outward are:
Reciting Truth in my heart
Meditating upon the purchase of the cross
Praying that God would open my eyes to see the needs around me
I’ve also found that writing encouraging notes and finding small ways to bless others are simple ways to bring joy to the people God has placed in my life.
When I think about the deep hurt that my selfishness caused my girlfriends during that painful time in my life, my heart aches. However, as I meditate upon my God’s healing, love, and forgiveness, the ache becomes sweet and even cherished. I have watched in delight as the Lord has continued to beautify this story of His faithful redemption among my sisters in Christ in the years since those painful youth group days. Even now, though some of us have moved away, we love to reconnect with each other on our visits home to catch up and cherish the friendship that God has restored and made beautiful. Truly, His ways are perfect.
My boast is in my Jesus and in His restoration, healing, and birthing of new life to all that His brilliant light and love shine upon. Knowing that I am truly better because of His always faithful refining work, I stand with confidence in the joy and life of my Savior*