8 There was a man all alone;he had neither son nor brother.There was no end to his toil,yet his eyes were not content with his wealth."For whom am I toiling," he asked,"and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?"This too is meaningless a miserable business!
9Two are better than one,because they have a good return for their work:10 If one falls down,his friend can help him up.But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! ~Ecclesiastes 4:8-10~
Americans are right that the bonds of our communities have withered, and we are right to fear that this transformation has very real costs. ~Bowling Alone, by Robert Putnam~
I attend a church of over 14,000 members. So, you can understand my shock and awe when our church came out with the statistic that only about 10% of our members are involved in a life group or bible study. That's a little over 1,000 people. This statistic has been confirmed over and over again through personal experience, as I consistently meet people that are not plugged in. Many of them have no close Christian friendships and so naturally I started to wonder, what gives? Apparently this anomaly is not just common in our Church culture, but is also true of America as a whole. In his book Bowling Alone, Robert goes on to site statistics that point towards the decline in close friendships in the majority of our population. Twenty years ago it was common to site three or four people that were considered deep friendships. That number has dropped by half. Today most Americans can site only one or two close friendships. Is it any wonder then that the rates of depression and anxiety disorders in the United States are on the rise? We were never meant to do this life alone, disconnected from each other. God made us, especially women, to desire community and connectedness. We're made to relate to others and without that our Christian walk is crippled. So how do we combat this trend?
- Invest time in others. We're all busy, but when we become too busy to connect with others, we are doing ourselves and those around us a disservice. First and foremost, God called us into relationship with others. Secondly, friendship, according to Dr. Dean Ornish is good medicine and can even help us combat heart disease. Those who fostered close friendships in his study also saw a 72% decrease in depression symptoms. His statistics also bolster the idea that people with a strong network of friendships are able to weather illness and trauma much more successfully than those who lack a network of support. "The Nurses Health Study" out of Harvard concluded that not have a close network of friendship and support was just as much a health risk as smoking or obesity! Investing in others is not only beneficial to them, but to your own spiritual, mental, and physical wellness.
- Be Yourself. Or can I phrase it this way...dare to be vulnerable! It's common to feel like we must keep on masks when we are with others, but by putting down your own mask, you're giving others permission to do so as well. By sharing your own struggles and stories, you're giving others permission to do the same. Our stories are important because they are the venue through which God shows the world what He has and is still doing.
- See. People underestimate the value of truly looking someone in the eye. Psychologists agree that this is one of the most important non verbal communication skills. You'd be suprised how many people feel passed over and unseen. Next time you meet someone, pray to see them the way Jesus does. By simply choosing to see someone through the Lord's perspective we may gain a friend and minister to someone's heart.
- Find the lie. The enemy loves to lie to us by misrepresenting past experiences. Maybe you were tortured and teased by others as a child and so you believed your were worthless instead of seeing that those kids were suffering themselves. Perhaps your mother never gave you words of affirmation and so you believed the lie that you would never measure up instead of seeing that she was acting out of her own bondage and false beliefs. Whatever it is that is keeping you isolated, it isn't from God.
- Know who you are responsible for. Not everyone will like you. Personalities, missions, and values will no doubt conflict. You will also have enemies. But the truth is, the only person you are responsible for, is yourself. Their behavior and actions are not your concern. There is freedom in knowing that.
- Know who you are living for. Many of us are still living under the bondage that we must please others, but this is the opposite of what God called us to. In the case of developing close friendships, maybe you fear that you'll be rejected, or you fear judgment. This is the opposite of God's plan for relationship. We were never meant to entertain the idea that our life must be lived up to others expectations. "You see trying to live your life living up to others’ expectations is an insatiable quest. They forget what they say as soon as they say it, yet you make it the very borders and boundaries in which you live your life, looking to meet those expectations and find approval."~Marissa Star