Joe Keller

How to Pursue Friendships through Hardships

August 4, 2015

Our friendships can be the most blessed thing in the world to us, but at the same time can be the most difficult and painful. Anger, embarrassment, shame, awkwardness, and fear can all relate to our friendships. There is a blessedness for those who pursue each other through these hardships, and I can honestly say that my dearest and most beloved friends in life have all had difficult seasons. When life gets hard in our friendships, what are some biblical principles that can help us move towards one another instead of moving away from one another?

Why should we pursue friendships through hardships? Here are some biblical principles to guide our hearts as we navigate the waters of friendship when it’s hard to do so.

The Provision of the New Creation: Romans 6:6-14; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 2 Peter 1:3-8

Even in the most difficult of friendships, we have been enabled by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit to live and love differently, and not according to our sinful desires. This gives us hope and courage that we don’t have to muster up the ability to love our friends when it is hard, but rather rely upon the enabling to love our enemies from the new heart that was given to us at redemption. The new creation not only brings provision, but guides the process of how we relate to and work through hardships with our friends. There are so many popular opinions on how to make and keep friends today, but the only method to work through hard friendships is according to the wisdom found in God’s Word.

Many friendships dissolve simply because those involved do not feel they have the ability or understand how to move towards one another. As believers, we are compelled to move toward one another, because Christ in His lovingkindness moved toward us first.

The Promise of Sanctification: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; James 1:2-8; Hebrews 3:12-13

Hardships in friendships heightens our awareness of the actions upon us and heightens the awareness of ourselves. The inevitable self-introspection that comes from painful interpersonal relationships gives us the opportunity to interpret (and/or re-interpret) our thoughts, words, and actions biblically. This gives us the place to identify and deal with sinful desires and address those expressed in our actions. The goal in these challenging times is not simply to solve some difficult interpersonal issue, but an opportunity to grow personally and spiritually. Since friendships are mutually interrelated by definition, the opportunity to grow through this season of hardship applies to our friendships as well. It is mutual progressive sanctification.

The promise of sanctification in your life and in the life of your friend should bring hope when there are challenges between you. As you both are committed to grow in spiritual maturity, so will your friendship.

The Proclamation of the Gospel: 1 John 4:11-12; Matthew 5:9, 14; 1 Peter 2:12

When believers pursue one another out of a genuine love in the midst of hurt and hardships, it gives a visible illustration of the gospel work of reconciliation. The world knows us by our love, and love is most on display when it is being challenged through hardships. We are most to be blessed as we pursue peace in an unpeaceful world and shine as a light unto a dark world in need of redemption.

Honestly, the goal of comfort and personal sense of peace is not valuable enough to help us pursue through hardships in relationships. It is our defining responsibility as a believer to live differently as a witness of the Gospel. This reality gives us perseverance and hope to lovingly pursue our friends through hard times because there is something bigger at play.

This leads to a follow-up question. How can we pursue friendship through hardships?

Taking Yourself Out of the Equation: Philippians 2:1-11; Colossians 3:13; Romans 5:1-5

Pride and self-promotion do not cultivate friendships, especially during times of hardships. Looking to prefer your friend as more important than yourself is the right context to live out the Truth. Be quick to overlook offenses and forgive sinful actions against you.

In the end, we do not need to be the judge of every wrong or try to solve every unmet expectation. It is our identity in Christ and not in other things or people that produces a humility that binds our friendships even in the midst of the hardest of times.

Letting Love Abound: 1 John 3:16-18; 1 Peter 1:22; Proverbs 17:17

Let your love be genuine and guide your interactions with your friend during hard times. To intentionally have love be the primary motivator and initiator of thoughtful actions toward your friend insulates you from the pain of false accusations and strengthens your integrity. This is not to say that you ignore sin and hurt, but rather to deal with it truthfully according to the work and provision of Jesus Christ.

It is usually in the everyday ordinary moments and simple actions that genuine love is best expressed when relationships are strained. Above all, when times are hard in friendships, pray for them. It is hard to foster a hardened heart against another when you are praying for them in love.

Being Faithful and Patient: Romans 12:16-18; Galatians 6:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:14

Friendship is reciprocal. It might take some time for the relationship to experience mutual expressions of care and affection again. It is important during times of difficulty within friendships to be faithful to cultivate a welcoming and available context.

Be faithful to seek opportunities to do good by following up on meaningful events, requests, and memories. This is the patient work of friendship, waiting for the spiritual fruit from genuine loving pursuit to develop.

Join the Conversation

What are some common temptations not to pursue hard friendships? How do the provisions and promises of the new creation help encourage your pursuit?

What does it look like to be disappointed in friendships but not despaired?

Can you stop being a friend with someone? What biblical principles guide your answers?

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