This past Sunday, Scott taught about beauty of true Christian friendship. It was a moving message that made clear for a Christian: true friendship is marked by deep devotion and Christ like love. One of my favorite lines in the message was a quote from Piglet to Winnie the Pooh: “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you my friend.” We all desire to have a friend – a life companion who know us, loves us and is for us. We all want a friend who is not only there for you when you need them, but is with you because they like to be. If you have that kind of friend – thank God for them, and then thank your friend for being a true friend.
But what do you do when you’ve lost that friend? What happens when there has been a falling out and you’ve done all you know to do to restore the friendship, but it’s still broken?
I’ll confess that one a few occasions in my life – I’ve been a bad friend and it’s cost me true friendship. I’ve taken a friend for granted. I’ve failed to consider their feelings. I’ve said or done hurtful things. For the record – when it comes to friendship – intentions are irrelevant. A wound is a wound.
The divorce of a spouse is often more traumatizing than the death of a spouse. Ask a divorced friend and they’ll likely tell you finalizing a divorce doesn’t usually feel final. The person you loved and shared life with is still around. Life is going on, but just not together. There is something utterly unfinal about it all. It’s similar with a broken friendship. The relationship is gone, but the old friend is still down the street. It’s hard for those wounds to heal because they get reopened frequently. This brokenness is a consequence of sin. As Christians we may be saved from the guilt and penalty of sin, but we are still living in a world not fully redeemed yet.
So what’s next when you’ve reached out, offered forgiveness, asked for forgiveness, taken responsibility, sought restoration and you still find the relationship isn’t restored?
1) Don’t give up. Scott was right when he said we should never give up on a lost friendship. After all, Solomon said in Proverbs, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” If a friend loves at all times, then a friend should loves at all times. Don’t give up, but…
2) Give it to God. Not giving up, doesn’t mean you’re always fighting for the friendship to continue. You can take responsibility for your actions and attitudes, but not someone else’s. Forgiveness is something that is given. You may seek forgiveness, but not get it. In those situations you must learn to trust your friendship to your Heavenly Father. Take the burden of restoration and place it squarely in His hands. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…” Letting go is different than giving up. Letting go and trusting God is relying on Him to do what you can’t do. You can’t change a heart, only He can.
3) Love them from a distance. You can love a friend even when you’re no longer hanging out. Speak well of them. Don’t criticize them. Pray for them. Pray for their kids. Desire good for them with your whole heart. Do kind things for them – anonymously if necessary. Leave the door open for restoration later.
4) Seek satisfaction in your relationship with God. Sometimes the loss of an earthy friend exposes a lack of friendship with our heavenly father. We discover that our security, our joy, our satisfaction was tied to the temporary versus the eternal. Do you enjoy God, or just fear and comply with His moral laws? If you’re not enjoying God you are missing out on why you were created.
5) Get a new perspective on you. Ask someone with the guts to be honest if they think you’ve done all you can to restore your friendship? They may see a little pride you’re unwilling to lay down for the sake of making things right. If you’re a Christian extending the proverbial Olive Branch isn’t enough. Uproot the Olive Tree entirely and deliver it. Ask what it’s like to be on the other side of you? Ouch. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t move on, move up.