We live in a world that is more connected technologically than any time in history. But I wonder if our technology prowess has resulted in us being lonelier than any time in history?
In the Garden of Eden, shortly after creating Adam from the dust of the earth, God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Couldn’t have been said any plainer. We were created by Father God with an inherent need for deep and healthy friendship.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 says: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.” Solitude is good for our souls. But only in measured doses. Too much solitude can turn into isolation, and isolation is a recipe for emotional depletion, as well as other serious threats to our well-being.
Think about it for a minute: When was the last time you hung out in person with trusted friends just to hang out and have fun? If you can’t remember when . . . chances are you’re heading for danger. Getting this friendship thing right is foundational to reaching our full potential.
I don’t think I’m breaking new ground here. We’ve likely heard most of this relationship stuff before. But why do we struggle with it so much? What gets in the way of fulfilling relationships? Here are three roadblocks:
It seems our discretionary time is being competed for at a level that tends to crowd out the very thing we need most. Relationships. While I know a few lazy people, the friends I run with work hard. They have a lot going on. In order to get coffee together, we often have to plan months in advance. If we’re lacking intention, a whole year can go by and we haven’t spent any face-time together. An out of control schedule can get in the way of fulfilling relationships.
Our sense of invincibility
You know, success is great . . . but it comes packed with danger. When we ride the success wave, it’s easy to take on more work than we should. We can find ourselves feeling invincible. Trouble is, we’re not invincible. We need healthy friendship to protect us from a false sense of invincibility. Success won’t keep you healthy. Trusted friendship will.
Our sense of inadequacy
Ever had questions similar to these cross your mind? “If so and so really cared about me, why do I always have to be the one to initiate get-together times? Maybe deep down they don’t like me, or they just tolerate me.” In these moments, we need to remind ourselves that our friends likely have a lot on their plate. Spending time with us is not always the first thing on their to-do list. So, we need to get over feelings of inadequacy, and take relational initiative.
A few weeks ago, Laura and I were watching the National Geographic Channel. We noticed something: when an animal gets separated from its herd, predators are always close by, ready to pounce. The devil’s plan for your life is similar: to isolate you in your struggle or in your success. When we’re struggling, he tells us not to share it with anyone: “they’ll lose respect for you; they won’t follow you” are some of the lies he spews. On the other hand, success, while desirable, usually comes with expanding work days and neglect of friendships. Every bout of depression I’ve dealt with over the past 26 years has emerged during a time of great success. The devil’s goal is to isolate you in your struggle or your success, and then take you out!
If you’re a pastor, it’s important to understand that ministry lends to relational isolation, and that sounds weird, right, because in ministry you’re always around people! But being around people and being connected to people are two different things. Giving energy away to people and receiving it from people are two different things.
If you’re a lead pastor, friendship comes with risk. We ask questions like: “Who can I trust?” “If I open up to people in my congregation, what happens if they turn on me?” “Shouldn’t I just play it safe and get close to nobody?” The lead pastor role, if you’re not careful, can lead you to a relational desert.
When was the last time you were around good friends with no agenda other than to laugh and have fun? If you can’t remember, beware. You’re heading down a dangerous path.
“It’s not good for the man to be alone.” Can I challenge you to stop making excuses for why your friendships are withering? Can I encourage you to start being intentional about investing time and energy into those relationships? I urge you to block off time in your calendar to spend with healthy people who fill up your emotional bucket.
Every moment spent building fulfilling relationships is a moment well-spent.
I’m rooting and praying for you!
P.S. –Converge Coaching is facilitating cohorts for lead pastors to provide great and relevant content, and also to create the possibilities for friendship. Our goal with these cohorts is to help you become the best possible version of yourself, and to build an environment where healthy relationships can start.
Our next cohort starts in January 2019, and space is limited, so take a minute right now to investigate.