Have you ever felt surrounded by people but still very much alone? When I was 19, I had an experience that forever changed how I view friendship and our truest friend, Jesus.
During my sophomore year in college, close relationships of family and good friends were long distance and I was left with an empty feeling. I felt surrounded by people who knew who I was, but I felt a lack of connection to those around me. One day I decided to unload this heavy feeling of loneliness to the Lord in prayer.
I explained to God how I had been feeling, how I didn’t have any real friends present and especially how I felt like no one there truly understood me. As if a voice were sounding in my room, though it was spoken only to my thoughts, the words I heard were to the effect, “But I understand–isn’t that enough?” I was not expecting this answer. It rattled me.
I had hoped for a relief, but instead, the Lord used this opportunity to encourage me to grow. I initially was not pleased with this answer because it required me to change. It required me to trade a lower way for a new higher way. I now am grateful for this answer because it began a lifelong deliberate practice to try to turn to Christ to fill my needs with His “Living Water” rather than to look to people around me to fill my needs.
Jesus told the Woman of Samaria at Jacob’s well:
“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again; But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”(John 4:13-14)
What does it look like to trade the water of Jacob’s well in for Christ’s water of everlasting life? Well, in regards to friendship, it means that we are able to put to bed our lists of expectations of what a friend needs to be. We no longer need friends to feel validated or to feel appreciated or accepted because Christ has filled us so completely. It is nice and even preferable to feel acceptance or understanding when around others, but no longer so necessary.
It also means that we show up for others. We look for what we can give rather than for what another can give us. We can love without love being returned. We can serve with out being thanked. We become content with others.
When we are filled with Christ’s living water, our friendships become inclusive and broad in their application. We no longer keep the label of friend to a select few, but are anxious to connect and extend friendship liberally.
As a result the Lord is able to use us to help lift and strengthen others in need, and is not this what friendship truly is?
This is a lifelong practice. It takes thought and intention. It also requires recommitting over and over, but it is so very worth it.
If you have any feelings of loneliness, strive to give them over to God in prayer and see what He can do with them.
Give it a try!
image: Living Water, by Howard Lyon