In-N-Out is an awesome choice for a burger but hard to swallow for a friendship choice. I want good friends in my life for the long haul, not just intersecting for a time in our separate journeys. Unfortunately, life the last few years has been bringing a hard reality for me to accept into crystal clear focus: Friendship for life is not the goal.
People growing up in military homes or other situations that are constantly relocating learn this reality much sooner than I have, I would assume. Though I’ve moved a few times in my life, I have been mostly stationary for long periods of time. While loyalty and longevity have been priorities for my adult relationships, repeatedly I am detecting that for God’s divine reasons close friendship is often only for a season requiring me to relinquish my grip on the very desire to never let go of those people. Striving to value God’s purpose for and sovereignty over my relationships, I must accept that God did not design them simply for the here and now. He always has His eye on eternity.
David’s deep, godly friendship with Jonathan ended abruptly before David ever became king (2 Samuel 1:26). Christ befriended twelve men for only about three years (John 16:5-7, Luke 3:23; length of Jesus’ public ministry). The apostle Paul poured his life into believers but then left them after a similiar period of time, which broke their hearts (Acts 20:17-38). Over and over again people in Bible times were required to leave behind friends and move on in their God-ordained journey (Tower of Babel, Ruth, Nehemiah’s day, infant church in Acts to name just a few). The bottom line is that God is not focused on making our relationships last forever in the here and now, which fundamentally goes against a deep desire I innately possess. Will I defiantly demand my way or humbly accept His will?
God has been turning my world upside down the last couple years concerning friendships and relationships in general. So many of the people He carefully placed in my life, He has been yanking out of my life. Connecting with people is a joy for me and the constant disconnection is doing quite a number on my heart. Even my dentist unexpectedly and suddenly retired with no warning. The loss of my kind, friendly hygienist caused unexpected sadness. After my recent cleaning at a new place, it felt like the last straw and led me to my first serious questioning of God’s goodness in all the relationship upheaval. My flesh was tempted to accuse Him of taking everything away from me. First, God has not taken everything. Second, even if He has, will I continue to worship Him? Isn’t that the very thing Satan thought he could use to get Job to deny God? Take everything and Job will deny God (Job 1:9-11). Will we still stay faithful to God if indeed He were to take everything from us? Or am I only in the relationship with my Savior as long as it is going at least partially my way in the temporal here and now?
Forever relationships are for the next age in the new world when we will no longer be on mission to go to the ends of the earth to proclaim the gospel. Every single Christian will be at rest with the Savior and living in perfect harmony enjoying pleasures forevermore. In-n-out relationships, a light and momentary current reality, will thankfully be a thing of the past.
For additional insight on the beauty but brevity of friendships, I recommend this podcast episode: Friends Like Family: Finding Your People & Cultivating Community with Bailey Hurley on The Christian Single Moms podcast.
In closing I’ll share what a friend and mentor recently challenged me with as we discussed some of these very realities. She quoted Elizabeth Elliot who was quoting Amy Carmichael: “In acceptance lieth peace.” How well are we accepting God’s sovereign choices over the changing seasons in our relationships?
Thank you, Elizabeth. This is well-written and challenges me to look closely at what’s in my heart. (I really appreciate the Scripture references, too!)
In reading your piece, I was reminded of something I read in Paul Trip’s book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. If you have that book, it’s on page 120 under “Redemptive Relationships.”
He says, “People do not belong to us; they belong to God. Relationships are not primarily for our fulfillment…Effective personal ministry begins when we confess that we have taken relationships that belong to God and used them for our own selfish purposes. When we have confessed and repented, we are ready to ask what role our relationships can play in the work Christ wants to do.”
I was completely convicted. I could see how this was how I was with EVERY relationship in my life!
Our dear Lord has not only been faithful in His forgiving me this sin, but also kind and gentle in making me know His ways.
Oh, what a Savior!!
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That quote goes so well with what I am trying to say. Thank you for sharing!