It’s been a difficult week. A death in the family has made it a burdensome time for us. The loss is affecting all of us. Arranging for family to gather for the funeral, making our own travel plans, decisions about the service, comforting each other, and on, and on. It’s just a difficult time.
Church friends and other believers have been the best. Not because they take care of any of the details. Rather, just because they are there. There are questions of interest and concern. They ask that their condolences and and concerns be passed on to other family members. They offer to help if there is anything they can do. They are anxious to be supportive. Their interest is comforting, and encouraging, and uplifting and . . . nice.
Why do those critical of church not see how wonderful church can be at times such as this. And, in all honesty, it’s not just in times of crisis, but during the good times church can be a great source of joy and celebration.
As I spoke to one of my children this evening, the observation was made that the friends my wife and I enjoy at our church have been very important to us. It was an observation that was somewhat surprising to me since she lives far enough from us that we don’t see her family but maybe two or three times a year. (Really tough on us as grandparents.) Yet in the phone calls and infrequent visits, it has become apparent to her how significant the friendships we’ve developed are to us.
Now the thought occurs that the friendships we’ve discussed aren’t just the few special friends that are especially close. It also includes a wider circle of people who have shown genuine interest and concern just because they are fellow travelers on the journey. They really care because God has given us a connection of meaning that gives importance to another’s burdens. Psychologists “discovered” forty years ago that each healthy person can handle about three intimate friendships, about twelve close friendships and the circle widens after that to include a host of friends and then unlimited acquaintances. When even the more distant acquaintances express sincere concern, it seems to belie the results of the study as it relates to the limited number of friendships with which one can cope.
There are genuinely sad stories of friendships destroyed by church controversies. Sometimes the issues override years of building memories. Stopping to appreciate the history of relationships is important in avoiding significant loss between friends. The end of a friendship can be almost as devastating as any other loss. Pause to appreciate the bonds that you develop in church.
Consider the following:
- Others respond to you based on your investment in them — When you show interest, extend courtesy and act with respect, those around appreciate your presence and when your name comes up in a conversation it’s accompanied by words of grateful recognition.
- Your reputation opens the door for others to feel safe with you — The good name you generate precedes you and follows you, meaning that others will know that you are a person who can be trusted.
- Your friends are the best “calling card” you can have to develop a reputation beyond question — The informal reference of trusting friends open the door for others to want to associate with you.
- Respect begets respect — The way others are treated tends to generate a like return in attitude. The way a person is treated, is the way that person tends to respond.
It seems obvious that fostering friendships is not that difficult. At the same, a reminder of the importance of one’s friends and acquaintances is rarely wasted.
Enjoy the acquaintances you make, and foster friendships in every way you can. Don’t minimize the role that your church, and Christians beyond your church, plays when you deal with a difficult situation. Be a friend to others and in times of loss and need, knowing that the return you get may be more encouraging and comforting than you can ever imagine.