Do you have a list of favorite Christmas movies that you watch every year? Maybe you watched Elf or A Christmas Story last month?
It’s a Wonderful Life is one of my absolute favorites. Believe it or not, I watched it for the FIRST time just a couple years ago. I couldn’t believe I had waited so long to see it!
It’s about George Bailey, a banker who ends up on the verge of bankruptcy, heading to jail for financial mismanagement that wasn’t his fault. In his darkest moment, he wishes he had never been born and is on the verge of suicide.
At that moment, he has an eye-opening experience with an angel named Clarence. Clarence shows George what his town would have been like if he’d never been born. George realizes that he has made an incredible impact on the people around him in the simple, ordinary things he has done his whole life.
George learns that despite having no money whatsoever, he is indeed very rich in relationships and love!
In the final scene of the movie, George runs back to his wife and kids, filled with joy and gratitude over this new epiphany. The people of the town find out that George is in trouble, and spontaneously come to the house to give whatever money they can.
They give George enough financial assistance to help him avoid bankruptcy and jail, and the community is transformed. (At this point tears are running down my face – what amazing friends!)
The Importance of Friendships
Friendships can be one of the most valuable and significant aspects of your life.
A few years ago, I realized that I lacked long term, deep friendships with others. I was surrounded by people, however, I was feeling lonely and quite discouraged.
There can be all sorts of reasons we find ourselves with fewer friends than we need. Past hurtful experiences, busyness, and our culture’s focus on individuality can all contribute to loneliness and isolation.
The truth, though, is we were made for friendship. We are hardwired for community. The Bible has a lot to say about the importance of friendship.
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.”
– Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
This old African proverb speaks to this as well:
If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.
How to Invest in Friendships
So, how do we begin investing in our friendships? How do we break free from the “go it alone” life and move into friendship and community? Here are a few first steps that you may find helpful:
1. Start Risking
We have all experienced difficult relationships. The good news is that God longs to take those painful places and make them whole again. He wants you to have friends and live in community.
If you’ve experienced hurtful friendships, be honest with God about it. Share the painful places. Let yourself feel it. Then release those experiences to the Lord. He wants to lift your burdens, heal your heart and help you step into new and abundant life.
2. Invest Your Time and Energy
Building relationships takes time and energy. We all spend our time and energy on something – we simply need to decide to be intentional about how we use this resource. If you’re wanting to grow your friendships, start by spending time and energy investing in your friends!
You can’t be friends with everyone, of course. So make a list of people you want to begin cultivating a friendship with. Then consider how you will concretely spend your time and energy to invest in that friendship.
Is it calling them once a month? Having them over for supper? Texting them weekly to touch base? Sending them a birthday gift? Getting together to watch the football game? Whatever it is, make sure you do it consistently!
3. Open up space in your home
Our homes are often the most powerful untapped vehicles for friendships and community. How can you use your home to grow your friendships? Do you have an extra bedroom or an air mattress for visitors? If so, let your out of town friends know they can stay with you. (Hotels are actually a modern invention!)
On the flip side of having people stay with you, think about whose house you could crash when you’re traveling!
Invite someone over for supper once a week and have them bring something to share.
Get into the habit of making extra food in case one of your kids asks if their friend could stay for supper at the last minute. (We have this happen a LOT!)
When we begin to see the importance of how we are called into community and take small steps in that direction, we start to see a transformation from emptiness to fullness. We find ourselves surrounded by friends and family who know us and love us.
What other practical ways have you invested in and grown your relationships? What results have you seen from this? We would LOVE to hear your story.
For more on building relationships and it’s importance, check out these helpful articles: