Prioritizing friends is worthwhile work

Written by Bethany Brown

All my life, I’ve wanted a friend like the one Proverbs 18:24 describes: one “who sticks closer than a brother.” However, such a friendship does not simply pop into existence. Just as we must work continually on our relationship with God, we must work continually on our friendships.

We may not often consider how we’re stewarding our friendships, but we’ll know when we aren’t stewarding them well. I had a friend group in high school that I was too busy to make time for. I obviously wasn’t doing a good job stewarding any of those relationships. So in university, I decided to start fresh and practice caring for my friendships.

I put a lot of effort into meeting people and then made a point of spending quality time with them. I was known in my first year of university for my “meetings.” Scheduled, weekly, in-person rendezvous during which we got to know each other—actively building our friendships and praying with each other one-on-one.

It wasn’t study time. There were no distractions, just you and me for an hour every week. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). The best gifts I had to give were my time and desire for deep friendship, so that is what I gave.

I must admit, I haven’t kept up with those routine meetings. Neglect has cost me a few close friends. Years ago, when I signed a lease with a couple of friends, it was the beginning of the end of our friendship. I took them for granted because we lived together. I believed we would stay close because of our proximity, so I didn’t put in the effort I had before. We stopped spending time together; the walls went up; I started walking on eggshells.

Other friends come and go and come back. That can be a lesson in humility. I recently had a formerly close friend come back into my life. How many months did it take me to send that text? To ask for a “meeting?” I thought it was over. Hallelujah though: all the work we put into our relationship years ago set a good foundation for us to return to, and I look forward to building upon it again.

One of my best friends once said: “No matter how busy you are, you’ll make time for the people who matter most.” We can always set aside time for what we prioritize. Sometimes it’s easy; sometimes we get busy and forget about important things and people. Visiting gets harder as we move away and into different stages of life, so visits may be few and far between for some friends. But I find they’re powerful reminders of the treasure that friendship is.

It’s more than the time spent together, though—it’s what happens in that time. “The pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice” (Proverbs 27:9). Now, the advice itself is not always pleasant, whether you’re receiving or giving it.

I’ve had very difficult uncomfortable conversations with some friends. I like to see the best in people, and sometimes that means I ignore or explain away their faults. But when it’s really important, I will say or do something. Those who have asked me to keep them accountable say I am the harshest of their friends in those times.

It’s not fun, but Proverbs 27:5–6 says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” So far, every time I’ve thought I could lose a friendship over the issue at hand, my friends have been grateful—after the fact.

I’ve been on the receiving end of heartfelt advice too. Even when I don’t like it, I’m genuinely thankful because I see the deep friendships God has blessed me with. A friend loves at all times (Proverbs 17:17), and part of true love is rebuking someone for their sin (think of how often the Holy Spirit convicts you of something).

Time, intentionality, humility, and honesty are key parts of stewarding friendship. This posture also prompts us to value our friends as people, not just because they are our friends. Philippians 2:3 talks about humbly valuing others above ourselves. Christ demonstrates this repeatedly in the Gospels, and it is reflected in His relationship with the Church. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

This attitude can help us learn to care for the people in our lives as though they are entrusted to us, and not our own.