When I was in my 20s, I stumbled into a mentorship relationship with a coworker’s teen daughter. Once a week, I would pick her up to work out at the gym together and then enjoy a latte afterward.
She came from a complicated blended family, and even though my primary function in our outings was to ask questions and listen to my young friend talk about high school drama, home struggles and future hopes, I looked forward to our time together and felt fulfilled afterward. Though technically I poured into this young woman, in doing so I too received an emotional and spiritual lift.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend who expressed a desire to have more friends and feel more connected in her community. One of my first suggestions was for her to have “pour out” relationships. Whether serving in youth group, going to coffee with someone in crisis or mentoring a young person, a service-based relationship will increase your sense of connectedness and well-being.
A valuable friendship
Even in the secular world, research has shown that joy is found in showing kindness to others. One recent study conducted by the universities of Washington and Missouri found that happiness comes from seeking to improve another’s life rather than improving your own. In an experiment, college students were split into three groups and given different tasks. They were randomly instructed to either do something to make themselves happier, make someone else happier, or simply socialize. According to an article on the study, the results were telling:
“Later that day, after doing their tasks, participants reported what they did, and then filled out their happiness and needs questionnaires again. Those who’d done something to make another person feel better were much happier themselves than participants in the other groups, and their greater happiness was tied to a stronger feeling of connection to that person.”
This reminds me of the adage: “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” We talk a lot about mutually beneficial friendships (“iron sharpening iron”) where each friend has something to offer the other. But sometimes true friendship is found in one person helping another in his or her time of need (much like the Lord helps us when we have nothing to offer). And it seems God has wired us with a sense of natural reward and connection when we serve others.
The idea of pouring oneself out appears a few times in Scripture. In Philippians 2:17, Paul says: “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” The apostle describes the joy of being able to serve those in the church and describes himself as a drink offering, an Old Testament offering of worship to God (Numbers 28:6-8). Though Paul recognizes his days on this earth are limited, he finds gladness in serving people and investing in their spiritual journeys.
Here are a few natural benefits we experience as we pour into others:
As we comfort others, we are reminded of how God has comforted us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
There are few things more fulfilling then walking someone through a hardship you have experienced yourself. As you do so, you gain a bit of God’s purpose in allowing trials in your life and experience the joy of Him using your pain to help someone else.
Investing in someone else takes my eyes off my own problems. Nobody has a perfect life, and I am no exception. When I was single and desiring marriage, staying home watching TV could cause me to stew on my unfulfilled longings. Taking my young friend out for coffee provided an opportunity to focus on her problems and share truths from God’s Word that encouraged us both. As I told her that God was her refuge and very present help in trouble, I was reminded He was also mine.
“Pour out” relationships often grow into more. At times, a relationship where I once did most of the listening, praying and advice-giving has morphed into a more balanced friendship over time. Consider a parent-child relationship where a parent invests heavily during their son’s or daughter’s childhood and the relationship transitions into true friendship when the child becomes an adult.
When a friendship begins with one person serving another, you form a bond in the relationship that goes beneath the surface. Many of my current friendships began when someone helped me out or provided needed counsel. Though a relationship may begin with one person’s need and another person addressing that need, the Lord often grows such connections into beautiful, unique friendships.
If you’re feeling disconnected or friendless, evaluate your current friendships. Do any of them allow you to help, serve or invest in someone’s spiritual journey? If not, volunteer at your church, take someone out to coffee, or become a mentor. As you pour out yourself for someone else, you will experience a deeper sense of connection and purpose that not only brings God glory, but also makes you happier.
Copyright 2022 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All Rights Reserved.