A few years ago, I was chatting with a friend who was going through a painful break-up. As we talked about the loss she was feeling, she said, “I just don’t want to be alone.” None of us do.
Around that same time, I read an article reporting the decline of friendship in America:
If asked how many friends you have, some may have trouble distinguishing between the lengthy list of Facebook friends and those close pals you confide in. Well, it turns out, Americans’ lists of the close type has shrunk to two, down from three confidantes 25 years ago, a new study suggests.
Based on observation alone, I don’t think things have improved much in the last five years. But we need friends. In fact, this Livescience article reports that friends actually make us healthier.
“One’s social life matters above and beyond what we already know about the ‘quick fixes'” of diet and exercise on health, said Yang Claire Yang, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who studies the physiological effects of social ties.
My experience has proven that the “joyful spirit” and “crushed soul” mentioned in Proverbs 17:22 are often closely related to how my interpersonal relationships are doing. The Bible strongly encourages friendship and dependency on one another. If friendship is so vital, how can we get more friends? Here are a few ways:
Connect at church. This isn’t the first time you’ve heard me encourage you to plug into your church (and it won’t be the last). If Christ is No. 1 in your life, it stands to reason that the most meaningful relationships would come from among the body of believers. Join a small group or get together with someone from your community group or Sunday school class. Better yet, serve in a ministry. Opportunities for new friends abound at church.
Make new friends. I wrote about this recently, and having moved to a new state four months ago, I’m living it. If you’re not naturally a “people person,” making new friends can seem like a daunting task. But take heart. We live in a world with text messaging and social networking! I’ve found it very easy to text new friends and invite them to coffee or other events, using Facebook. And guess what. Most of them have said yes!
Reach out. If you are a person who has close friends, thank God for that! Then look for someone who feels isolated and invite that person into your social circle. I have witnessed others doing this, and it can really help someone get connected who may be struggling to do so on his or her own. Psalm 68:6 says, “God settles the solitary in a home.” Keep your eyes open for people God may be trying to “settle” in your community.
I think the decline in friendship we see around us, points out a flaw in our society. Some of us are trying to do the hard stuff alone. But God didn’t design us that way — to the point that social isolation can actually damage your health. Take advantage of the fact that the way God calls you to live as a believer is in community, following the greatest friend to us all — Jesus.