I can’t imagine not having friends. Friendships are an incredibly important part of life. Any relationship can have its challenges – we can get hurt by friends, get disappointed by them, we can fight with them and it can be overwhelming at times to keep them. But at the same time, friendship is so fulfilling and having buddies that understand you, get your back, and love you no matter what is what makes life enjoyable.
As a parent, one thing I always wanted to make sure of was that my kids had friends. I think the skills involved with making friends, keeping friends, and resolving conflicts are some of the most important life skills we can develop. Some people are naturally social while others of us need a lot of help in this area of our lives. Maybe you have strengths in one area and weaknesses in another area of building friendships. All my life I’ve had friends, but usually one really close friend at a time. I would do everything with that person – talk, shop, play sports – and the friendship would last for years until usually time or space would separate us. One of my challenges is that I am terrible at keeping up with friends that are not in front of me.
We all have different ways of making friends, but I never thought about what it would be like to be friends with God until I started studying the Bible. I always saw God as untouchable, unreachable and not really interested in my life in particular. I always thought he cared, but about everyone, and he wasn’t particularly interested in my life apart from everyone else.
The Lord would speak to Moses face to face like one would speak to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp. But Joshua, his young helper, didn’t leave the tent. Joshua was the son of Nun.
The Bible describes Moses’ relationship with God as a friendship in Exodus 33. I often wonder what that was like. Moses would meet God in a tent and they would talk and talk. What would they talk about? Was it mostly God talking, or would Moses talk also? What questions would Moses ask God? What types of things would God tell Moses? Why did Joshua stay behind? Was he trying to be God’s friend too?
These are the questions that go through my mind when I read this fascinating scripture. The biggest lesson we can learn, however, is that we can actually be friends with God.
But friendship takes work and mutual interest, and how can you be friends with someone you can’t see when enjoying the company of another person is essential to friendship? Is God going to want to be friends with me? Maybe our personalities won’t match, or I won’t be able to keep up my side of the relationship. Maybe he will want me to change things that I don’t want to change, or put demands on me that I can’t meet. All these questions can trip us up as we try to figure out how to really be friends with God.
21 At one time you were separated from God. You were his enemies in your minds, and the evil things you did were against God. 22 But now God has made you his friends again. He did this through Christ’s death in the body so that he might bring you into God’s presence as people who are holy, with no wrong, and with nothing of which God can judge you guilty. 23 This will happen if you continue strong and sure in your faith. You must not be moved away from the hope brought to you by the Good News that you heard. That same Good News has been told to everyone in the world, and I, Paul, help in preaching that Good News.
Colossians 1:21-23 (NCV)
This scripture says that by Jesus’ death on the cross God has made us his friends. That means God is initiating and doing his part in building a friendship with me. But friendship has to be mutual. Whether I am good at it or not, I have to make sure that I am holding up my end of the relationship.
Here are 3 ways to help you become friends with God:
1. Get to know God
3 Let’s learn about the Lord. Let’s get to know the Lord. He will come to us as sure as the morning comes. He will come to us like the autumn rains and the spring rains that water the ground.
Hosea 6:3 (GW)
One of the most fun parts of a relationship is getting to know the other person. What do you really know about God? What does he like? What doesn’t he like? How does he feel about us? What does he want us to do? How committed is he to the relationship? Why does he do the things he does? I remember when I first became a Christian, I didn’t know anything about the Bible and I had a lot of questions. I had a really good friend who took me out to breakfast one day and just told me story after story about God, the things he did, the ways he worked – I was enthralled! I will always remember that time because it helped me to fall in love with a God that I barely knew.
Even if we’ve been reading the Bible for a long time, there is still so much to learn about God. I have been married for 25 years, and a few years ago, my husband and I were going through a very difficult time in our marriage. Years of bitterness and distance had built up and we could not seem to get past it. We sat down one day and just talked about all the things we liked and didn’t like about each other – it was a 4 hour talk! We thought we knew each other but I realized that I didn’t know my husband like I thought I did. Over time, we had just gotten used to each other, but we had stopped learning about each other’s desires, fears, feelings and thoughts. The same can be true with God – maybe you have been a Christian for a long time and think you know God but don’t feel close to him. Maybe it’s time to grow in your knowledge of what he’s like.
8 “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9 (GW)
We may think we know God, but we don’t like him very much. I work at a school with young children, and they will sometimes say “You’re not my friend!” when another child doesn’t do what they want. This is perhaps the most devastating statement for another child to hear. It can be funny to watch, and we know that in about 30 seconds, they will be playing together again, but we can be the same way with God! I don’t like it when God doesn’t do what I want when I want. I don’t particularly like waiting for God to do things in his time. I don’t like having to go through difficulties – sometimes I just want God to make everything go my way. I don’t like that I don’t always know what he’s doing. I don’t like that I have to trust his decisions and not my own. Sometimes these things make me not want to be friends with God.
Do you relate to any of these feelings? Take time to pray and tell God what you really think, and fight to trust that God’s ways are always good even if they don’t feel like it. These dilemmas are an important part of my relationship God, despite how they make me feel, because they teach me to trust God. Without trust, relationships can’t last. What dilemmas are you going through right now in your friendship with God? How do you think working through them and trusting him will strengthen your relationship with God?
2. Share your heart
I don’t call you servants any longer; servants don’t know what the master is doing, but I have told you everything the Father has said to Me. I call you friends.
John 15:15 (Voice)
Jesus was a great friend because he told the guys around him everything God told him. He did not hold anything back from the relationship. He did not keep his emotions, plans and dreams a secret.
Any true friendship is emotional, including our relationship with God. There are usually feelings of closeness, empathy, compassion, joy, and understanding between us and our friends. On the other hand, there can be feelings of distance, disagreement and disappointment in most relationships at some point. Rarely do friends agree 100% of the time.
What do you do when you have a conflict with a friend? What happens to your heart? Are you the one who apologizes, or do you wait for your friend to say I’m sorry first? Is it easy for you to give your heart to the relationship, or does the person have to prove something first? Are there things in your life that you have not shared with anyone?
If we don’t share our heart, relationships can’t grow. Similarly with God, if we don’t share our real heart with him our friendship with him can’t grow. What part of your heart do you need to share more with God?
Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he ruled for twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jehoaddin, and she was from Jerusalem. 2 Amaziah did what the Lord said was right, but he did not really want to obey him.
2 Chronicles 25:1-2 (GW)
In this scripture, Amaziah was going through the motions. He did what was right, but he didn’t really want to. In other translations, it says Amaziah wasn’t wholehearted. God doesn’t want us to just go through the motions without our heart. If we do that, we’re not building a relationship we are just doing our religious duty. Has your relationship with God grown stagnant and halfhearted? Do you feel like you’re more focused on all you have to do than just being close to God?
1 O True God, You are my God, the One whom I trust. I seek You with every fiber of my being. In this dry and weary land with no water in sight, my soul is dry and longs for You. My body aches for You, for Your presence. 2 I have seen You in Your sanctuary and have been awed by Your power and glory. 3 Your steadfast love is better than life itself, so my lips will give You all my praise. 4 I will bless You with every breath of my life; I will lift up my hands in praise to Your name.
Psalm 63:1-4 (The Voice)
The author of this psalm has obviously worked on his relationship with God. He has true emotion for God – affection, admiration, vulnerability, expression of need, and awe. These emotions were probably cultivated over time and you get the feeling that he must have gone through some challenging times too. Do you have this kind of emotion toward God? If not, why not? Do you tell him what you feel every day? Do you express the disappointment, fear, pride, mistrust that can exist in each of our hearts? Being friends with God means that we don’t hold back how we feel from him.
3. Treat others well
6 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:6-8 (NIV)
Being friends with God does not require perfection, but this scripture says that our love for God is reflected in how we treat other people. This can be challenging. He doesn’t want any kind of fantastic worship ritual – he wants us to treat others right (act justly), to forgive (love mercy) and to walk humbly. If this is all he wants, why do we sometimes have such a difficult time being friends with God?
Personally I think it’s because it takes a lifetime of practice to always forgive, always say what builds others up, and always do what is best for others. Consider this scripture that describes how God wants us as wives to treat our husbands:
11 She inspires trust, and her husband’s heart is safe with her, and because of her, he has every good thing. 12 Every day of her life she does what is best for him, never anything harmful or hurtful.
Proverbs 31:11-12 (The Voice)
Every day of your life, do you do what is best for others, even your husband? I don’t know about you, but this is difficult for me because I often want to be right, I don’t want to think about anyone else’s needs, and if I want to say something hurtful, then I don’t want to have to think about it before I say it. Basically, I want to do what I want to do and not have to constantly think about it beforehand. The problem is, this attitude destroys relationships. And if I have that attitude towards the people I care about most, I will inevitably have the same attitude toward God (1 John 4:19-21).
Spend some time thinking about what kind of friend you are. Identify the areas in which you lack good friendship making skills. Do you get too hurt too often? Do you want your friends to always agree with you? Do you have a difficult time being corrected by your friends? Do you need too much approval and attention from your friends? Do you hate telling your friends you’re sorry? Do you have a difficult time telling them the truth? Do you isolate yourself and wait for others to initiate with you? Whatever challenge we have in our friendships with people will be what we have to work on in our relationship with God. Work on getting to know God and you will make steps toward becoming his friend.