So we look for it in our other relationships. We need it in our other relationships. We need people we can count on and who can count on us, who we can know and be known by, who together we “carry each other’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2), even if they haven’t made a covenant of “for better or for worse” with us.
I’ve been learning about friendship my whole life, mostly through experience.
But it’s been in recent years of my singleness that I’ve really learned the importance of friendships; that I’ve come to believe they are just as valid and valuable of relationships as marriage; that I’ve seen how they too can be covenant relationships that beautifully reflect the Gospel.
Friendship is Love
In John 15, in the same place where Jesus is teaching His disciples about abiding in Him, obeying His commands by loving one another, and being filled with complete joy in Him, He says, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (v. 15)
Jesus invites His disciples into a relationship not of blind, robotic, menial servitude, but one of friendship—togetherness in purpose and endeavor, knowing and being known, trusting and being entrusted, growing in closeness and intimacy.
In this same passage, Jesus also says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (v. 13)
The support and help, the trust and encouragement, the reliability and commitment we find in healthy friendships is a picture of love—of great love that is not selfish, but self-giving.
Friendship is love.
This means we don’t have to wait for marriage to have relationships of depth—relationships that are committed, supportive, and intimate. We can have this in our friendships.
But that brings us to the question: How do I deepen my friendships in singleness?
How do we cultivate this mutual commitment, support, and intimacy, when there’s no formal covenant?
Cultivating Commitment, Support, and Intimacy
I don’t have it all figured out; these are thoughts I’ve been pondering over the past few months as I’ve been navigating singleness, friendships, longings, and loneliness.
But here are a few things I’m practicing in deepening my own friendships:
Note: I’m talking specifically about healthy friendships here—not those that are unhealthy. And I get that despite our best efforts, things aren’t always reciprocated in a relationship. I also get that various circumstances can prevent us from investing in friendships as much as we would like to. We each need to use wisdom from the Holy Spirit to discern how much time and energy we’re going to put into a friendship, create boundaries, and decide when it’s time to let a friendship go.
It's Okay when It's Hard
Like I said, I don’t have this all figured out, and I’m not perfect at it—in fact, I feel like I miss the mark much more often than not.
But I hope you’re encouraged in knowing you’re not alone in your desire for deeper friendships and in finding it hard to navigate those friendships.
And I want you to know that it’s okay when it is hard.
Relationship with God and others is the very thing for which we were created. So it makes sense that it is a deep, dynamic, and even at times difficult thing to navigate. I think we’ll spend our whole lives learning and growing in how to have good, true, and beautiful relationships. But we can have hope that the goodness, truth, and beauty of relationship with God and others will find their completion and fulfillment in Christ in heaven.
And this is why friendship is so important: because it’s a taste of heaven that gives us hope, brings us joy, and compels us to love.