Q: “We have moved many times. Each time we become a part of a Bible-teaching church and start seeking to be a part of Sunday school, Bible studies, and community groups. But still, godly women friendships are hard to develop. I reach out. I strive, but sometimes the ground is hard. It seems to be harder the older I get because many women seem to already have their set friends. How can I be a better friend, even when we move a lot?”
A: May I begin with some words of praise and commendation to you? First, your commitment to being an active part of a Bible-teaching, local body of believers is so wise. It shows you are depending on God’s Word and His ways, it reveals a focus on God and what He has said is best and necessary for you, and it shows a commitment to others. Second, I praise God that you are distinguishing between being a part and being an active part of a church. This is vital for both you and others. And third, I commend the humble perspective of your question. You are seeking ways to be a better friend and persevere in pursuing godly friendships, not focusing on what others need to do or be for your friendships to flourish.
But I know that even with that wise commitment, there are still obstacles to address and thoughts and feelings that you’re experiencing in the midst of them. Moving has all kinds of built-in difficulty and complicatedness, doesn’t it?
While my family and I have only experienced two big moves—Michigan to Tennessee when our kids were very young, then back to Michigan after four years—I’ve had a front row seat for a life like yours. I’ve watched my brother, sister-in-law, and their children move frequently during my brother’s military career. Because I love them so much, my heart is tender to your circumstances. I went straight to my sister-in-law to see what wisdom she could share.
Combining her input, what God has taught me in my experiences, and truth from His Word, here are some encouragements and exhortations for you.
Ask God to shape your expectations (Ps. 19:14; Rom. 8:5–6; 1 Peter 1:13). Our expectations can be a major killer in friendships. Especially when our current expectations about friendships are based on a past reality or idyllic notion. I think you’re already on to this, as you wisely mentioned the difference in women’s friendships as they grow older. Our breadth and depth of friendships varies in different seasons of life, even if we’re in the same place. And the kinds of friends we have—friends our own age, younger, older—will vary throughout life as well. So use that wisdom to shape your expectations and ask God to give you both the friendships you need and the ability to rest in His answer, no matter what it might be.
Check your heart to see if you might be idolizing the idea of community. We must remember that God’s purpose in friendship is not to fill us—only He is able to do that completely and best (Ps. 62:5; Prov. 18:24; Matt. 6:33). We cannot expect friends (or husbands or children or anyone) to fill us in a way only God can. So keep friendships in their proper place. Sometimes the loneliness we feel can point us to joy as we remember that Christ is in us here on earth. It can direct us to the hope we have in the promise of glory with Him in heaven, where there is no loneliness and no pain.
Be slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:19). You’ve already jumped the first hurdle because you realize you have to be in settings through your local church (Sunday school, Bible studies, and community groups) other than the main worship service in order to connect with others. So when you’re in those settings, remember that listening will help you get to know people and learn how to speak in ways that are more meaningful, which will hopefully allow you to connect. Also remember that while there are most definitely ways to pursue friendships through the ministries and programs of your church, you can also have simple meet-ups and meals with a person or two outside of those settings. You could also meet Christian friends in other places. So . . .
Pursue hospitality in your home (1 Tim. 5:10; Heb. 13:2). While, in a new place, it may be hard, tiring, and potentially hurtful if opening your home doesn’t bring you friendships, it is still worth it because the pursuit of hospitality is for the kingdom.
While face-to-face, local friendships are great, long-distance friendships are valuable too! Don’t be afraid to take advantage of current technology. My sister-in-law used to think that it was wrong that most of her deep friendships were long-distance, but it really is okay! We live in a culture that’s more transient than ever, and we can be thankful that God has also given us technology to help us.
One of the surest truths that can bring gratefulness and contentment is to trust that God is writing your story. This was the highlight of what my sister-in-law shared with me. If God wants you to have a large amount of friendships locally, He will not hesitate in bringing them. If He has a deep friendship for you, you will find that friend. If He intends that loneliness will bring you closer to Him, He is with you. He is enough (Ps. 62).
I’m praying specifically for God to shape your expectations, give you wisdom and discernment, bring the friends He has for you, and give you rest in His all-sufficient love and care.