Many of us find the search for meaningful friendship all too familiar. We all need friendship and desire people in our corner that love, care for, and support us. In some seasons of life, friendship comes naturally with minimal effort. In college, our roommates can become built-in best friends with whom we spend every waking moment. In the early stages of motherhood, play dates can be a good excuse to hang out with our friends who also have kids. Great co-workers can be an easy way to spend time with someone throughout the workday. But there are other seasons when making time and space to invest in friendship feels daunting and near impossible. Often if we find ourselves in the latter, we start to question ourselves and our ability to make friends. We might wonder where to even begin developing and maintaining meaningful friendships in the throws of busy seasons.
The truth is, we will also go through seasons of both joy and hardship, flexibility and freedom, and our seasons will not always perfectly align with our friends. There is relief in realistic expectations for what our relationships can look like depending on the kind of circumstances we find ourselves in. Making stipulations like immediate responses to text messages and phone calls or getting easily upset when plans are canceled or changed can crush a potential friendship. Life is busy and people will fall short. But friendship is not about finding someone who will meet our every need. There are great challenges that come with a friend who demands and expects too much. Healthy expectations create lots of space for grace.
Intentionality holds great importance, too. It can feel easy initially to connect with someone over surface level commonalities–a favorite book, a similar lifestyle, a similar season, or a similar job. It can feel easy to gain a friend this way initially, but over time that friendship may begin to wear out because it lacks the depth and intentionality needed to endure. The most meaningful friendships happen beyond the surface. Share the good stuff and the hard stuff. Get vulnerable, even when it feels uncomfortable. Ask the fun questions and the important questions. Share recipes and funny quotes, but also share Scripture and truth-filled encouragements. Look for ways to sharpen one another, pray for one another, and build one another up in an intentional way.
But what about those times when there is no time? Finding a place in our schedules to plan time with a friend can sometimes feel impossible. But meaningful friendship shouldn't require grand gestures and copious amounts of time. When life is really full, small gestures can be just enough to say, "Hey I'm still here, and I care." Sometimes that means sending a text message or dropping off a coffee. Sometimes that means calling one another up while running errands in order to share prayer requests. The small gestures matter. If we only wait for big chunks of time and grand shared experiences, we will miss ordinary moments to care for one another in simple ways.
Lastly, one of the best ways to develop a meaningful friendship when life is busy is to commit to praying for our friends. It shows care and concern beyond what we get from the friendship. It relieves the pressure to solve one another's problems and fix each other's circumstances. In prayer, we can ask and request things beyond our limitations. God is able to do abundantly more than we could ever ask or think of doing. By regularly praying for one another, we place ourselves and those we pray for in the hands of the only One who can fully carry the weight of our needs.
Earthly friendship is God's gracious gift to us. It's wonderful, beautiful, and vulnerable. We can, however, easily distort what brings value and meaning to our relationships. Our longing for meaningful fellowship shouldn't ever replace the hope of Jesus Christ. He gives us purpose and meaning and meets our every need. Living in light of that truth opens the door for true, grace-filled, and intentional friendships with others. So while searching for more meaningful friendships, may we find and point others to the ultimate comfort and hope of Jesus Christ.