Are you feeling too busy for friends?
For working women with countless demands on their lives, “keeping up with friends” too often gets pushed to the side. Maybe it’s because there isn’t enough time in a day, or because “friends time” feels like too much of a guilty pleasure. But you can’t treat friendships like a sort of hobby to save for your leisure time.
Friends must be a priority, because they are an integral part of God’s plan for our lives:
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
Friendships make you better. Over time, you’ll find that the investment you make in friendship yields unbelievable dividends. It is through such friendships that iron sharpens iron and one woman sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). Healthy, supportive relationships with other Christian women will positively impact pretty-much everything else you’ve got going on. Strong friendships can dramatically improve women’s overall health and longevity, optimism regarding challenges, kindness towards others, and even job satisfaction.
Friendships sustain you. When you face unexpected challenges or tragedies (and you will), good friends can be your life line. I’ve seen this play out for my own family over the past year, as my daughter Annie has suffered through Sciatic Nerve Entrapment disorder. Despite countless hospital visits, therapies, and treatment efforts, even including one recent trip to Zurich, Switzerland for major surgery, Annie remains wracked by constant excruciating and debilitating pain. When it first started, I went straight into problem-solver mom mode: I researched symptoms, doctors, and natural remedies. I planned a trip to the Mayo clinic and encouraged friends and family to try to keep Annie’s spirits up. I was sure we were going to “solve this problem” in no time. But then a month passed, and then two, and then many more. Even though her surgery went well, we’re told it can take 18 months to see any improvement at all, and it will probably get worse before it gets better. Now I’m no longer sure about what the future holds for Annie’s illness. But I trust that God has a plan, and that His plans are good. And in the midst of this great challenge, I have been constantly overwhelmed by God’s equally great provision for us.
The amazing friends that have carried me over the last seven months have been the greatest blessing I have ever experienced. It hurts Annie to move, but she loves to be around people, so friends have come to us, and they keep coming. Friends have ministered to us through relentless prayer and encouragement. Friends have provided food for the family (and for our many visitors), they’ve sent kind gifts and letters, and I’ve even had friends stay with Annie so I could take restorative breaks. Friends at 4word have stepped in to fill in my gaps and lighten my workload. It’s humbling and awe-inspiring, seeing friends show up for us, over and over, in ways we couldn’t have imagined.
Friendship is a ministry opportunity. I am hurting in this time as I watch Annie hurt, but through the ministry of our friends I am also learning deep and incredible things about God; about how He created us and how He loves us. As believers we are called to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). When your life is going relatively smoothly, it might not feel like you “need” friends, but it’s possible that they might need you. God can use you to work in their lives, but you must make time to be in their lives.
Put it on your Calendar. If you’re struggling to make time for friends, start by blocking out some regular “friends time” on your Calendar. I’m naturally drawn to connect with people, but I’m also extremely task oriented, so much so that I easily fall into workaholic mode, pushing everything else off until I’ve accomplished my to-do list. The problem, of course, is that the to-do list never really ends. The best way for me to counteract the tendency to overwork is by intentionally scheduling time to connect. By making it a part of my calendar, I trigger that task-oriented part of my brain and I’m much more likely to make “friends time” happen.
For three years while I was working full time and raising kids, I met every other week with a small group of women for lunch. We were all in similar life stages, balancing faith, relationships and careers, and we all had crazy lives and schedules, but we committed to that one hour together just to share, pray, cry and encourage each other. Our lunch accountability meetings were a set item on my Calendar, not an afterthought, and that made it easier to fold friendship into the flow of my day. And those women were and continue to be a huge part of my life. The accountability group taught me the importance and the value of having authentic relationships with women who value the same key things in life that I do. From that point forward, I’ve always worked to make sure I have such women in my life.
My accountability group came together pretty naturally, but it doesn’t always work that way. If you’re having a hard time making or building connections, try joining an organized group like 4word or a bible study. Groups can take some of the organizing pressure off of you and put you in regular contact with other believers with whom you can gradually move towards deeper friendship. Pray that God would bring deep friendships into your life, and start consciously praying for those friends. Praying for people has a way of opening up your heart to them and bringing you closer. For a deeper look at the value of friendships and tips for developing them and making them work, check out Chapter 14 of Work, Love, Pray.
Wherever you are in your friends journey, I encourage you to stick with it. Make the time, even when it feels like there isn’t any. Put in the effort, even when it feels like too much. Keep seeking connection, even when it feels awkward. Do these things for your benefit, but also for the benefit of your (future) friends.