Hannah Chambers writes about the importance of friendship:
“God has taught me so much about friendship over the last few years; revealed so much of himself, so much of who I am, and perhaps most significantly, he has shown me that I have so much more to learn from him in this aspect of life.
Relationships with others is something I delight in intensely. In his goodness God has given friendships that provide many of my greatest joys in life. Friendship, however, is probably also the source of my greatest struggles and I find myself constantly battling sinful attitudes and behaviours that seek to damage and distort the good gift of God.
There are so many things I could write about what God is teaching me. Over recent years I have come to understand that relationship is the heartbeat of God, right at the centre of who he is and his plan for the world. God’s design for us is that we are not made to be islands. Part of God’s plan for us as individuals, and for us as his church, is that we are strengthened, changed, healed, loved, challenged, empowered, humbled, belong and are made more Christ-like through relationship with one another – and this transformation he brings about not primarily for our own satisfaction, but so that he is more beautifully glorified and his Kingdom is more clearly seen on this earth.
I have also come to understand that people are precious, and that being created in God’s image elevates and imbues each of us with a great dignity. But maybe one of the major things God has shown me is this:My friendships are not mine, they are God’s.
Nothing exists outside of him, he is the creator and sustainer of the world, and that means he is the creator and sustainer of friendships too. Through this truth, God has revealed the insecurities I have in friendship. I have a strong desire to possess and control friendship, a tendency to feel easily threatened and to constantly ask the question, though often subconsciously, “where do I really stand in this friendship? How precious am I really?” Me Me Me. These insecurities lead to a destructive tendency to hold too tightly to friendships, finding my contentment and significance in them. A result of which is that I cease to enjoy them, so concerned am I about the threats I perceive from others and worrying about maintaining the friendship into the future. I become enslaved by them.
But God is good, and he hates to see his children imprisoned in this way, and over recent years, God has taught me so much in this, predominantly by taking away or changing very precious friendships, either through people moving away or through changes in situations here. Needless to say, this has been an incredibly painful process at times, but I can honestly say that I enjoy each of those relationships so much more, now that I have been forced to loosen my grip. It is so freeing to no longer be asking those questions, or worrying about the future, but to be enjoying God’s gift in the here and now. He has been abundantly good too in providing beautiful new friendships that continue to teach me more and more about who he is and who I am.
How the Gospel transforms friendship is something I long to understand more. God says to me ‘you are my daughter, and I love you, and I will never let you go, and I want you to find your contentment, security, identity, worth and beauty in me’, and it is a constant battle to be satisfied in those truths. I long to be so secure in Christ that I can be generous and open- handed with the friendships he has given, because my identity and self worth are simply not located within them.
So there is a small window into some of the joys and deep struggles I have in friendship. Some of those struggles may well always remain with me. I don’t know what the future holds in that. But it is in the midst of the struggles, even at the most painful times over the last few years, that I have known God most keenly and felt most alive spiritually. I praise God because he is in the pain and frustration, right by my side, fighting the battles with me, and it is in the pain and frustration that he is showing me that ultimately I am not made for relationship with another person, but for relationship with him. He loves each of us too much to allow us to find ultimate satisfaction in friendship, rather I know he is using my struggles and brokenness to show me that because of Christ there is perfect, struggle-free and beautiful relationship still to come.”