One Three-Word Challenge That Opens the Door for Friendships to Blossom
by Tracie Miles
I didn’t know where to turn, what to think or what to do. And I desperately needed friends.
I was living in the aftermath of abruptly separating from my husband due to circumstances beyond my control, broken hearted, scared to death of the present problems and the unknown future that awaited; thrust into the unwanted role of an unemployed single mom trying to support three children. Life seemed out of control and I felt like a failure and “not enough” in any way. To make matters worse, I found myself feeling lonelier than I had ever felt before and fighting a mental battle in my thoughts, wrestling each day with who I even was anymore …
What was my identity if I was no longer my husband’s wife much less his friend? What about all my married friends who we used to do things with as a couple, but now, I am only a party of one? Will they still want to be my friend, or will they reject me? How am I supposed to make new friends so that I’m not all alone in this journey of life? How do I deal with the hurt from friends who have already turned their back on me and even walked away in the very season I needed their love and support the most? Are my current friendships secure enough to sustain this trial? Do I still fit in, somewhere, anywhere? Why does God have me in this lonely place?
Sadly, even those friends who were still sticking around were met with a guarded heart because I wasn’t sure who I could really trust anymore. My emotions, insecurities, and fears waged war against rational thinking and self-confidence. I desperately needed someone to speak truth and hope into my heart. Someone who I knew still genuinely cared about me without a shadow of a doubt. Someone who might not have walked in my shoes, but whose heart would break because mine was breaking. Someone who could show genuine compassion, and if nothing else, simply give me a hug and reassure me that someday, someway, everything would be okay. Someone to make me laugh, help me get my mind off my troubles. Someone to remind me God was in control and all is not lost no matter how bleak things might seem. Someone to help me stay focused on all the good things in my life instead of all the bad. Someone to make me feel loved, accepted and wanted.
Fortunately, by the time this separation and divorce storm raged into my life five years ago, God actually had filled my life with countless precious friends. Many “someones” who could hold me up on the hardest of days. But my trust had been shaken so badly and betrayal had left such deep scars, that I had to relearn to open my heart and let people in. You see, each and every friend had been an answer to one simple prayer I had prayed many years ago.
You see, when my children were small, I had very little time outside of work for anything other than being a mommy, including no time for building and fostering friendships. Yet I desperately wanted to. I longed for close connections with other women, more than just colleagues at work or acquaintances at church. I had decided to attend a half-day Christian women’s conference at my church, and one of the speakers shared a powerful message I’ll never forget, laced with Scripture and encouragement about life, relationships, and faith. I don’t remember much of anything she said, except the three-word challenge to the audience at the end of her message. She challenged and encouraged a sea of women, from that day forward, to simply pray for friends.
Huh? I had never thought about praying for friends before, even though I longed for them every day. It seemed like a petty, self-centered request—one that paled in comparison with all the things my family and others needed prayer for. Plus, if another woman told me she was praying for friends, I may have secretly thought it sounded a little desperate.
But when this sweet woman of God encouraged and challenged us to pray for God to bring friends into our paths, not only to help conquer loneliness but also to enrich our lives, I realized the truth: women don’t just want friends, they need them. Sadly, many women all too often think everyone has friends but them, but in reality, that’s usually far from the truth. In fact, I imagine every woman in the sanctuary that day was feeling a longing for true friendships deep in her heart just like me, while secretly believing she was the only one feeling that way.
No matter how old we get, we all need friends and we especially need those relationships when life deals us hard blows. God created human beings as social creatures and He knows true, close friendships—whether it’s one or three or many—is a critical element in living a fulfilled, contented life that you love.
The value of the support of other women when we feel like we can’t take another step should never be taken for granted. Not only should we realize how much friends can bless our lives, but we also need to realize the power we hold as friends to bless others and to help them climb out of even the deepest of pits—even when they’re afraid to ask.
Years later, as I endured months of loneliness, sadness and fear after my husband left our family, struggling with one major decision after another as a suddenly single mom of three with no income to provide for us, I received a lot of godly counsel from beloved friends and family. Yet I found it hard to heed their good suggestions at times, because my feelings seemed to be in control of my thoughts. I constantly entertained all the “what-ifs,” and no matter how good the advice was that I received, I questioned whether I should believe it or act on it.
Finally, after recognizing this struggle within and that I was treading water, despite the support of friends, feeling exhausted and getting nowhere fast, I bowed my head and prayed: “Lord, please help me see with eyes that are wise, not eyes blurred with overwhelming emotions and confusion. Help me act out of a heart that follows You, not a heart heavy with worry. Help me think with a holy perspective, not a mindset drowning in pain. Give me wisdom and discernment, and the ability to recognize and follow wise instruction when I receive it.”
I opened my eyes, breathed out a heavy sigh, and reached for my Bible, immediately coming across a set of verses in the book of Proverbs, “Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.” Proverbs 19:20-21
My heart quickened at the thought of God whispering the comforting answer I had just prayed for. I sensed His assurance that it was okay to accept and trust wise advice that aligned with Scripture, because His plans and purposes would always prevail even if my decisions weren’t perfect. He reminded me through this verse that He had put people in my life I could trust, and I didn’t have to figure everything out on my own. Precious friends who were sisters in Christ as well as friends, to help me and guide me. And if nothing else, they were friends who would listen as I talked a problem out and processed my options, eventually landing on an answer of my own which I could feel confident about moving forward with. I had been blinded by my problems and insecurities to realize the friends I had prayed for had been subtly placed in my life by God over the years, for such a time as this.
I began to ponder their relationships with the Lord, and how much I respected their faith and advice that was always laced with holy truth and love. I suddenly realized these people had been divinely place into my life—long before I needed them—to be the voice of the wise during my trials. Throughout Scripture, we are instructed to choose our friends wisely, because with godly friends comes godly wisdom—just when we need it most. This season of my life was when I fully realized the importance of this truth.
With grateful humility, I bowed my head again to pray, intentionally thanking God for all the sweet friends who continually poured prudent, prayer-covered instruction into my heart as I sought discernment about the best advice to follow. Not only instruction, but love, support and friendship every step of the way.
Another great lesson on friendship comes from King Solomon, who is not only the author of the book of Proverbs but is believed to have written Ecclesiastes as well. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, we read his opinion of friendship and the advantages of companionship. He writes, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Therein lies the foundation for the power of three friends and why we need them.
In his old age, King Solomon was one of the wisest men in history, after having spent a lifetime trying to determine what makes life worth living and seeking wisdom from God. This passage in Ecclesiastes begins with “two are better than one” and is frequently applied to the value of marriage. But it’s likely Solomon had a broader perspective, supported by what we read at the end of verse twelve, “three are even better.” If you ask me, Solomon had finally discovered, after having many relationships in his life, that friendships are a good investment of time and energy because of the many benefits we receive from them.
Friendships are not only just for fun and emotional support but also a major impact on our overall health and well-being. They are good for our mental and emotional health in many ways because positive relationships boost happiness and reduce stress. They inspire us to be the best we can be and often even encourage us to change unhealthy lifestyle habits. They help us deal with and get through traumatic things that happen, like death, divorce, serious illness or job loss. They help us feel accepted, included and loved, boosting our self-confidence and self-worth, and help prevent the disease of loneliness seeping into our souls and stealing our joy.
As we are told in Matthew 7:7, God cares about not only what we need but also what our hearts long for, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Never let yourself believe that praying for friends is a petty, selfish, unimportant prayer. Even our smallest needs are important to God, and He created us to have the need for connection and friendship. If your heart is longing for friends, don’t be too proud to ask God for them and then expectantly be aware for how He will begin bringing the perfect people into your life in His perfect timing.
Just as you would pray for food because your body needs it, or shelter because your family needs it, remember the three-word challenge. Whether you are going through the most difficult seasons of your life, or life is good, pray for friends—simply because your heart needs it.
Tracie Miles is an author and popular writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries where she is a monthly contributor to the Encouragement for Today daily devotions which reach millions of women around the world. Her most recent release is Living Unbroken: Reclaiming Your Life and Your Heart After Divorce, and she is the author of four prior bestselling books. Tracie is also the Director of COMPEL Training at Proverbs 31, has 3 children and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. You can connect with Tracie on her blog at www.traciemiles.com and on all social media outlets.
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