“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
Quick…When you’re faced with a challenge in life, something that really has you turned inside out and upside down, who is the first person you think of to call and share your heart?
I faced such a situation a few months ago. I was dealing with a major hurdle in my life and after turning to God, I wanted to throw some ideas off a flesh-and-blood human who had more experience than myself or was removed enough from the situation to give me an objective viewpoint.
First, I turned to my husband, my best friend, and strongest supporter. He gave me sound advice and a great shoulder to lean into (which I did before, during, and after the crisis) but as a woman, I wanted to continue to process the situation but didn’t want to completely drive him nuts. However, I found that even though I didn’t mind bugging my husband with my problems (after all, my issues affect him and his issues affect me – we’re a team), I couldn’t think of one single person in my group of friends that I wanted to bother. Everyone else was dealing with their own problems, and I didn’t want to add to their burdens, so instead I stayed quiet.
And, as usually happens, that made the situation worse. I turned inward, withdrawing even from my husband, and “dealt with it myself” (which in actuality was ignoring it and hoping it would go away). But, as I’ve said countless times before, God loves me more than that and wouldn’t let me stay where I had stubbornly put myself. Knowing that I wouldn’t reach out, He prompted a friend to call me. I didn’t spill my guts at first, but as the conversation continued, I felt freedom to talk about the crisis and received such love and godly wisdom in return. Before the conversation was over, we had both shared our hearts, more than one concern, and promised to pray daily regarding a separate issue that joined our hearts even closer. I believe that we both got off the phone that day feeling better knowing that we obeyed the command of God to “carry each other’s burdens.”
Two days later, I called her back asking for prayer coverage, assured this time that she would not only pray for me right then as the crisis had escalated, but I was free from the false guilt that I was bothering her which I’d felt during the previous week. She stopped what she was doing, gave more godly wisdom, and prayed with me right then. I had the assurance that she would continue to pray until she heard back from me. And she has the assurance that I’d do the exact same thing for her, because I’m realizing, that’s what authentic friends do.
Thinking about it, I have been blessed with several authentic friends, more than I deserve. Friends that if I ask for prayer (either specifically or unspoken) they’ll stop what they’re doing and pray right then, or continue to pray every time God brings me to their mind. Some of these friends I see (or talk to) two or three times a year at best, while others I’m in more regular contact with. Some of these friends will fast with me, share communion with me, or hold me accountable in areas of my life that need improvement. Others ask me to do the same for them, and I willingly, unselfishly do so, because that’s what true friendship is about.
Sadly, too many people don’t have someone they can call and unload their burdens too. They may be a single parent with no spouse, their parents may no longer be alive, or there could be a family conflict that has caused a rift in the relationship they have with their extended family members. There is no one, not one single friend outside their family unit, that some feel would want to hear about their problems.
We talked about the importance of community the last time, and developing one or two authentic friendships is the next step because each element complements the other nicely. Community gives a sense of belonging, allows people to be themselves, let down their guard, and work together for a greater purpose. Authentic friendships require trust and vulnerability. When you take that first step toward sharing your struggles, your “bad hair days,” “bad attitudes,” lack of faith, or need for wisdom with someone who won’t take advantage of your weaknesses but instead pray and ask God to build strength in you, you’ll both end up a winner.
I’ve found when I pray and ask God to bring the right authentic friends into my life, He delivers. I haven’t once gone looking, but God instead allows us to meet through a specific circumstance and slowly build a friendship. When crises arise, and they always do, it soon becomes evident whom I can dig deeper with and who would rather stay closer to the surface. My authentic friends and I are very different in many ways, but we share one common denominator. We all want to grow closer to God and realize one major way to accomplish that goal is to allow ourselves to be vulnerable with one another in love in order to chisel away the areas of our lives that need to be remade, encouraging each other along the way. This means I’m not always told what I want to hear, but always what I need to hear, and always in love and compassion.
I would encourage you to think about building some authentic friendships of your own, if you aren’t already privileged enough to have them in place. The first and most important step is to pray and ask God to bring the people He wants into your life and then to be open enough to accept His gift. I’m pretty sure if you decide to take that step, He will deliver and you won’t regret it.
Sharing my deepest concerns with my husband first is most important to me, but having other women who understand what I’m going through from the female perspective is another way that God shows me He loves me. I just pray that I’m as much of a blessing to them as they are to me!