Monday, July 7, 2008

Building a network of supportive friends


“The Christian life is a pilgrimage. At times the road is difficult and we get lonely. Sometimes we may get discouraged and consider abandoning the journey. It is at such times that God will place a friend alongside us. One of God’s most precious gifts to us is friends who encourage us and lovingly challenge us to ‘keep going.’ "

~By Henry T. Blackaby & Richard Blackaby ~

from their devotional book, Experiencing God

For those of us who have a hard time trusting, it's difficult to allow a friend to get close enough to help. Early in my life, I had friends, but none who knew me inside out and upside down. I just wouldn't let them get close enough to the real me. I even kept parts of myself hidden from the Lord - or at least I tried to!

That all changed when I finally realized my need for a spiritual healing and I sought help. Opening up the damaged parts of my life felt frightening at first, especially since I had kept all the hurt to myself for so long. But God knew I needed a friend - really a group of friends to encourage me and help me keep on through the healing process.

We met each week and shared what was on our hearts. For most of us, it was the first time we ever dared reveal the innermost parts of ourselves. It was simply too intimidating. But in the safety of the group, we learned to open up and share. The wonderful thing was that each of us had experienced a similar hurt in our lives so we could empathize with the others. It was a strengthening experience to reveal the darkest parts of myself and know my friends still loved me unconditionally.

One of the things that experience taught me was how to form more new friendships - to build a support network of people who would love me in spite of my flaws. This support network also helps hold me together during the stressful times; they help me stay accountable and open rather than receding inside myself again.

Let me share some things I learned about building these supportive friendships:

1. Always pray! God knows when you feel lonely or sad and He will send His Spirit alongside you to help and encourage. He will be the friend you need no matter what When you are able to trust Him, He will bring others to you who you can trust. He desires us to overcome our trust issues and learn to be vulnerable with each other as well as with Him.

2.. Not everyone is safe to share your innermost secrets with. While I do need to share to remain healthy, I can't just blindly trust everyone I meet. I need to build those relationships slowly over time testing each step.

I remember one time in particular when I needed to talk to someone so badly to help alleviate the inner pain I felt. There was one woman in particular who seemed to be a motherly person and I thought she would become a real encourager for me.

Rather than keeping my confidence, she told her husband everything I said, who in turn condemned my husband's faith and calling into the ministry. They eventually left the church and I felt devastated for having shared my hurts with this woman.

3. Start by sharing smaller things in confidence - thing that won't matter if your friend "tells" another person. By sharing inconsequential things first, you can test the waters to see if this friend will truly keep your confidences no matter how big or small. Once you know they are trustworthy, you can start sharing the more hurtful parts of your life.

4. Reciprocate the trust. When you find a person you can talk to, be a true friend to them as well. You learn more about trusting by being trustworthy yourself. They will have lonely times when they need your prayer, your listening ear and support.

5. Build a network of several friends who can help you with different problems. Don't allow one friendship to become mutually exclusive. This can be dangerous for you as well as your friend.

I am so thankful for the friends God has brought across my path. Some of them are only there for a time, others for a lifetime, but each one has played a special part in my life. They are truly God's most precious gifts to me, encouraging me and challenging me to keep on going, no matter how tough the road.


If you'd like to participate today, just write about the quote on your blog site, then leave your URL below. Be sure to stop by some of the other participants to check out their take on th quote and leave them a comment too!


Michelle Bentham said...

"One of the things that experience taught me was how to form more new friendships - to build a support network of people who would love me in spite of my flaws. This support network also helps hold me together during the stressful times; they help me stay accountable and open rather than receding inside myself again."

Oh and that is where it is... Loved your post. I am blessed by your testimony and reminded of how God did this in my own life.


writingcanvas said...

This was a wonderful quote and great post. THANK YOU so much for sharing and hostessing!

Denise said...

Such an inspiring post sweetie.

MiPa said...

Some great, practical advice here about developing a trusting friendship. Bless you Bonnie!

Chris said...

Bless your heart for sharing how aptly God fits and fills our every need-friends have an important role in the Bible, and in our own lives.
Thanks for hosting this week's IOWT.
Blessings on your day

mamas*little*treasures said...

Bonnie - such great advice! We certainly are blessed by each other in this group of women - reminders of God's faithfulness and our responsibilities in the Family of God. Your words are a blessing for this day! Thanks, Nina

Heather@Mommymonk said...

You have the heart of a teacher Bonnie! This is an article in the makings, too (in my humble opinion). We need friendships, but we need to know how to navigate those waters too.

jamie in rose cottage said...

Wonderful post, and thank you for hosting!

Jenna said...

Thanks for making me reflect on the friends that I have who encourage me and make my load a little lighter to bear.


Laurie Ann said...

I love this quote. God bless you for sharing your heart with us, Bonnie. I love the lessons I can take from this post. Your encouragement and inspiration means the world.

Susan said...

Hi Bonnie,

This was a great quote! It was fun getting the opportunity to remember and honor my special friend.

I was so blessed the Lord brought this wonderful group of women in your life.

God truly is faithful to send others along side of us on our journeys.

Your advice was timely♥

Karen said...

How special Bonnie. Thanks for sharing the things you've learned that we can use in our journey. Experience sure is a tough teacher but we definitely can learn from her if we will listen.

Terri Sue said...

Thank you for hosting! I love your list of advice! May God bless you richly.

Shabby Olde Potting Shed said...

Thanks for hosting today... I feel blessed! Thank God for Godly friends!

Tami Boesiger said...

Thanks for choosing a great quote that made me reflect on the blessings of my friends. They make us who we are, don't they?

You've given us some good guidelines to follow in pursuing deep relationships. Thank you.

Patty Wysong said...

Bonnie, you are a true treasure! You've packed a lot of wisdom in here for us! God has blessed me many times through you. Hugs!