We saw last week that a desire for friendship throbbing in our chests isn't bad but God-given.
Yet, as bred consumers living in a pharmaceutical age, we automatically pursue a cure for loneliness through friendship. Without thought, we conclude that friends will fix our heartache.
Aristotle called this base level of friendship "Friendship as utility" (Source). With this mindset, we swap friends like trying out new anxiety meds.
Convenience and comfort trump commitment.
We can feel hurt and betrayed by friends when they don't meet our needs. And we can fall into a form of despair — wondering if we'll ever find that "friend that sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24).
Perhaps, we've misidentified the cure because we've misunderstood the sickness. Henri Nouwen writes this about loneliness:
"The Christian way of life does not take away our loneliness; it protects and cherishes it as a precious gift. Sometimes it seems as if we do everything possible to avoid the painful confrontation with our basic human loneliness, and allow ourselves to be trapped by false gods promising immediate satisfaction and quick relief… The awareness of loneliness might be a gift we must protect and guard, because our loneliness reveals to us an inner emptiness that can be destructive when misunderstood, but filled with promise for him who can tolerate its sweet pain… When we are impatient, when we want to give up our loneliness and try to overcome the separation and incompleteness we feel, too soon, we easily relate to our human world with devastating expectations. We ignore what we already know with a deep-seated, intuitive knowledge–that no love or friendship, no intimate embrace or tender kiss, no community, commune or collective, no man or woman, will ever be able to satisfy our desire to be released from our lonely condition." (Source)
How much pain do our "devastating expectations" inflict on ourselves and others? What if loneliness is incurable, and befriending this human condition is where we find joy?
From Pharmaceutical to Faithful Friendships
Jesus told us long ago that, "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it" (Luke 17:33).
If we cling to friends as the way to eradicate pain, then we'll undoubtedly burn our relationships to the ground.
As natural consumers, how do we live in faithful friendships? Join me next week to find out.
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