September 20, 2019
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’”
—C.S. Lewis, author and theologian
We’ve all had those moments when you see someone reading your favorite book or hear them talking about your favorite TV series—you start a conversation and a friendship is born.
Over the years, you get to recognize which among those connections blossom into friendship. You want that person in your life forever just because you feel like no one will ever understand you the way he or she does.
But life happens, and change comes with it. All of a sudden, you are separated by cities or by differences in schedule. And you drift apart.
You were confident that you’ll be best friends forever, but the current reality does not seem to be in your favor. You start to wonder, “Can true friendships come to an end?”
“Growing apart doesn’t change the fact that for a long time we grew side by side; our roots will always be tangled. I’m glad for that.”
—Ally Condie, New York Times Best-Selling Author
We are all subject to the pain of loss because we live in a world where transitions happen, change is inevitable, and death is certain. Some graduate and move away to a different campus, a different city, or even a different nation. Some friends get married and have kids, and they can’t spend as much time with us as they used to.
Because life is unpredictable, some of our friends pass away, and when you’ve experienced losing a friend at a young age, it leaves an indelible mark on you. It makes you realize how short life is and it changes your perspective about making the most of your time with friends who are still here.
It’s not that the friendship itself ends. You know that when you come together again, the connection and memories will always be there. But the closeness will be different. And the truth is, when we meet again, we may already be very different people than who we used to be.
The beauty of Christ-centered friendships is that although a season of friendship ends, we know that even if we won’t see each other again in this lifetime, our life on earth is not all there is. Someday, we will have our sweet reunion for eternity. And it will certainly make up for the bitterness of the temporary parting.
“The tender friendships one gives up, on parting, leave their bite on the heart, but also a curious feeling of a treasure somewhere buried.”
—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Author and Poet
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
—Anais Nin, Diarist and Novelist
No one comes into our lives by accident, even when it seems like it. It is true that building a friendship should be intentional, and it takes hard work to grow it. But for some reason, God put you together at the right time and place, so that an opportunity for friendship happens.
It says in the BIble, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps (Proverbs 16:9, NIV).” This includes the opportunity to meet the people that become our friends along the way. Acknowledging God’s hand behind each friendship radically changes our perspective about it.
First, we become more aware of how this person is helping us grow. I don’t want to miss out on learning from a friend or even learning with them. There’s nothing like witnessing another person’s journey to remind us of God’s faithfulness. Somehow, seeing God move in the lives of others, as well as in our own, reminds us of His love and enables us to surrender to His will and obey. There’s also nothing like sharpening one another as iron sharpens iron to make us become more like Christ. All this, so that we can keep doing the good works that God has meant for us to do now and in the future (Ephesians 2:10).
Second, we become more open to new friendships instead of dreading them. One of the things I don’t look forward to when I’m in a new environment is having to start over with friendships. But when I embrace that God has placed me here, I am certain that He must have arranged for me to form connections here, too. And so, I become more interested and attuned to possible friendships, which makes me more intentional in building them.
Each season of friendship is meant to be fully experienced and enjoyed.
There is nothing wrong with missing friends we have been separated from or looking forward to meeting new friends in our next season. But if we neglect the ones God has appointed for us to grow with right now, we will miss out on enjoying and maximizing these relationships. He wants to do something in us and through us alongside the friends present around us today.
Do we gather, not just to hang out and have fun, but to speak life to one another?
When we meet each other, are we actually present in the gathering to share life with one another and not hung up on social media?
Is our friendship outward looking, motivating us to serve and love others who are in need of true friends?
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24,25 (NLT)
So, can true friendships come to an end? Physically, separation happens. But in our hearts, we know that the separation is temporary and that each friend has a special contribution to the person we have become.
Instead of thinking if and when a season of friendship will end, I’d rather focus on being faithful to the ones God has surrounded me with this season. I know I’ll be leaving an indelible mark in this person’s life and I want it to be a good one. I want to be a friend who has helped another become more like Christ and that together, our life-giving community will transform the lives of those who yearn to belong and to find real friends.
Does it always hurt when a season ends? I’m not gonna lie. The pain of separation will always be there. If it doesn’t hurt, then it means I have not given of myself to the friendship. And that is sad. Because that means I have chosen to close myself off because of the fear of getting hurt.
And so I didn’t get to love unconditionally or to serve fully—to be a friend that loves at all times, even in times of being apart. Most of all, I didn’t get to live by faith, trusting that God is sovereign even when everything changes.
So the pain is the same every single time. But what we need to be quicker at is fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), who knows every beginning and every ending, and who has promised to wipe every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4).
“The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately
without growing apart.”
—Elisabeth Foley, Professor