One Key to Renew Your Joy
By Katie MacDougall, LPC
When I was a senior in high school, there was one prayer God laid heavy on my heart. Truthfully, part of it probably felt so heavy because I was scared, but I also believe it was genuinely the Lord preparing my heart to do something amazing. The prayer God laid on my heart was this: Pray for good friends in college.
Oh man, did He answer those prayers? The university I went to catered to a very different population than me. It was essentially a performing arts school and I barely made the plays in grade school (I’m a millennial, which means everyone got a part in the play…that is how much of a performer I am not). So going to this school was intimidating. I was going for entirely different reasons than most of the students, I didn’t know anyone, and I had been with the same group of friends my whole life. Basically, it seemed impossible for me to make friends. I was praying fiercely that God would work a miracle.
God did perform a miracle and I made some of the most amazing friends in my life during those years. (Spoiler alert: Many of them are still very close friends.)
I’m in a different season of life now. I have friends. I’m blessed with many wonderful friends, but my life looks a lot different than many of my friends. Sometimes if I don’t intentionally stop to look at how many friends I do have, I get caught in the belief that I don’t have any friends. It’s a lie, but it feels true more often than I'd like to admit.
Why is it such a big deal to have friends?
Friends are a key to renew our joy. The Lord uses the community of friendship to bring accountability, comfort, laughter, and growth. Whether you’re single, married, young, old, male, female, bored, busy, working, or at home, friends are important and a key component to a meaningful life.
Scripture teaches three different types of friendship.
1. Mutual friendship. This is like the 50/50 friend. You know, the one where most of the time you talk and listen the same amount. Of course, there are exceptions and life circumstances that throw this out of whack, but for the most part it’s pretty equal in the give-and-take department. You probably have similar values and interests, good conversation, and hopefully lots of laughs. In Scripture, David and Jonathan are probably the best example of this type of friendship (1 Sam. 18), but I think Jesus even modeled this kind of close friendship. First, God models it in the unity of the Trinity (Jn. 14:9-11), but even when Jesus was on earth, He had a smaller group of disciples that was like His inner circle of confidants (Mt. 17:1; Mk. 14:33).
2. Mentor friendship. Most people know what a mentor is, but isn’t that an archaic concept? I mean, who has a mentor? Honestly, I have about 10. Anyone that knows me well knows that mentoring is a big part of my life and something I really value. If you’re part of a church, chances are there’s a man or woman a little farther down the road that would be happy to invest some time in a relationship with you. Some people do formal mentoring while others do more relaxed mentoring. Both work. Do what works for you. (For more information and resources about finding a mentor, check out The Ideal Mentor) There are countless verses about mentors in Scripture, but the one I’ll mention is Elijah mentoring Elisha (2 Kings 2). Elisha relentlessly pursued Elijah’s mentorship. As a result, Elisha saw incredible miracles and his loyalty resulted in Elisha receiving “a double portion of [Elijah’s] spirit.” That's what I call a worthwhile investment!
3. Mentee friendship. From the outside looking in, this type of friendship can feel the most burdensome. That is so not what the majority of being a mentor is like though. It is such a blessing, even in the most stressful seasons. It’s also something continuously modeled in Scripture. The Gospels are full of Jesus mentoring twelve men. Twelve may be a lot, but what about one? If you haven't ever been a mentor, pray about it. I have a feeling you probably have something to offer a mentee. (For more information about being a mentor, check out The ABC's of Mentoring.)
You may not have all three of these types of friendship. I’ve been in seasons where I didn’t either. All take work, initiative, and vulnerability, but they also take prayer. Pray for them. God wants us to be in community and He is faithful to provide.
Easy Ways to Spend Time with Friends.
So how can we make time for these essential relationships during busyness? Here are a few quick, easy, and, most importantly, non-stressful ideas:
1. Run an errand together. This may sound lame, but I’ve gone to the grocery store many times with all three types of friends. It’s an easy way to hang out when both of you are just too busy. It’s also a good way to get to know people better. I now know what kinds of cereal, mascara, and dog food many of my friends purchase. I've also had the greatest moments with mentors while running errands with them. I've seen them model Christ to clerks and other shoppers. I hope my mentees would say the same of our errand running, but I know regardless they'd say that our errands have resulted in some good bonding time.
2. Include friends in your family’s activities. Maybe it’s your family going to the park with another family, maybe it’s asking an older couple at your church to join your family for a movie night at home, or maybe it’s having a college mentee join you for a dinner with your in-laws. Get creative! Chances are everyone in your family will benefit from these kinds of interactions.
3. Exercise together. Exercise is improved with accountability. Even if it’s power walking around the mall for thirty minutes, this is a great way to see each other and release some of that stress from work, relationships, parenting, finances, caretaking, or school.
Start today! Which friend are you going to contact?