By: Ann Swindell
In a world bloated with quick fixes, instant gratification and social media profiles, it can be hard to know how to build—and keep—lasting friendships. And while we may want to portray a particular side of ourselves online, the truth is that we need friends who know us here and now, in the middle of our mess and our daily routines. And we need to be those types of friends, too.
The secret to these kinds of friendships is actually pretty simple: You just have to show up.
The Scriptures calls us to draw near to Christ and to draw near to one another: “Let us draw near [to Christ] with a true heart in full assurance of faith,” and “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:22, 24-25). As people of faith, we are called to live so that we are encouraging those around us toward love and good deeds. I think this comes most obviously and importantly through deep, meaningful friendship.
Here’s how to start—and build—friendships where we spur one another on to godly lives and where we reflect God’s love to one another:
Show Up With a Meal
A friend doesn’t have to be sick to need a meal. A new baby doesn’t have to be born, and it doesn’t have to be a holiday. Many times, we need a friend to care for us—spiritually and practically—in the midst of our everyday lives when things just feel like a little too much to handle. I’ve taken meals to friends who are emotionally overwhelmed, to friends who have sick kids and to friends who just need a break from adulting. If you don’t cook, take a pizza. Breaking bread together—sharing meals—is something that marked the early church, and it’s not hard to understand why. Sharing a meal together feeds both the body and the soul. It’s not hard—it just takes intentionality.
Show Up With Prayer
Hanging out and talking, watching a game together, laughing together—these are good gifts of friendship. But being friends who follow Jesus also offers us the rich opportunity to pray not only for but with one another. I’ve found that my times of prayer with friends have been some of the deepest and most steadying parts of our friendship.
Can it be awkward, especially if you’ve never prayed together? Sure. But it can also crack open the opportunity for deeper relationship and trust. Maybe you can’t help your friend practically, with her need or with his struggle. But you can pray with your friend, right there, asking God to meet that need and provide grace in the struggle. If you don’t know what to pray, consider getting a copy of The Book of Common Prayer and praying a liturgical prayer together. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But when two or three of us get together in the name of Jesus, He’s there with us (Matthew 18:19-20). When we pray, He hears us, and moves on our behalf.
Show Up With a Gift
When was the last time someone gave you an unexpected gift? When it wasn’t your birthday or a holiday? If you’ve ever had the grace of receiving a gift just because someone thought you’d like it, or a bouquet of flowers for no reason except that you’re loved, you know the surprise and joy those gifts can produce. Why? Because a friend took the time to think of us. Unexpected gifts can tell us that we’re remembered, treasured and seen—not only by that person, but by God. In many ways, gifts remind us of the continual love that God has for us, because we are pointed to generosity and kindness—good things that ultimately stem from His great generosity and kindness toward us through Christ.
Show Up With Forgiveness
True friendship—the real, meaty, wonderful kind of friendship—is going to have its share of arguments and conflict. But if you go through the conflict intentionally and lovingly, your friendship is going to come out on the other side stronger and deeper. Still, it takes consistent repentance and forgiveness on both sides—something that Jesus knew we would need to do (Matthew 18:15-22). Because just as often as we will need to forgive our friend for something hurtful that they said, we will need them to forgive us. A humble heart that’s willing to admit fault and forgive as we wish to be forgiven will lead to deeper camaraderie and love—and love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
Just Show Up
Friendship is, in many ways, about being willing to show up when no one else does. It’s about being the one who is there, regardless of the time of day or the magnitude of the need. None of us will be perfect friends—Jesus is the only one who can fulfill that role in our lives (John 15:15)—but we can aim to be good friends who point one another to the kindness and love of God. As we do the practical things of bringing food and love, and as we do the hard and holy work of bringing forgiveness and prayer, we are helping each other live in God’s grace and as citizens of His Kingdom. Truly, there’s no greater gift we can give one another.
Ann Swindell is the author of The Path to Peace (2022) and Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want. She teaches Christ-centered writing courses at Writing with Grace and loves helping equip women in their calling as writers. Ann lives in West Michigan with her pastor husband and their two kids. Connect with her at annswindell.com.