Life Balance Check, Part 5: Fellowship, Family, and Friends
November 12, 2019
by Peter Amsterdam
Life Balance Check, Part 5: Fellowship, Family, and Friends
I have been reflecting recently on how much my life has been blessed through meaningful relationships with others. We are hardwired to need other people in our lives, including our immediate family as well as all kinds of different relationships—both personal and professional. Meaningful interaction with others is a crucial element of personal growth, fulfillment, and emotional well-being.
We know the importance of fellowship and spiritual communion with other believers. This is a foundation in our Christian faith. The Bible teaches:
We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.1
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!2
In Rick Warren’s best-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life, he addresses this topic:
Even in the perfect, sinless environment of Eden, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” We are created for community, fashioned for fellowship, and formed for a family, and none of us can fulfill God’s purposes by ourselves.
The Bible says we are put together, joined together, built together, members together, heirs together, fitted together, and held together and will be caught up together. You’re not on your own anymore.
Biblical fellowship is being as committed to each other as we are to Jesus Christ. God expects us to give our lives for each other. Many Christians who know John 3:16 are unaware of 1 John 3:16: “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” This is the kind of sacrificial love God expects you to show other believers—a willingness to love them in the same way Jesus loves you.
God intends for us to experience life together. The Bible calls this shared experience fellowship.3
It takes planning and some effort to regularly have fellowship with other believers, but the Lord has emphasized its importance in the Word to our spiritual well-being. If you’re living in a city where you don’t have other Family members or Christian friends around to fellowship with, you could check out your local churches, house churches, small groups or prayer groups to find one that resonates with you and supplies your need for fellowship, as well as being a venue for worship and service.
Often our personal family members are the ones we spend the most time with—our spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, and other members of our extended family. If you are raising children or you have members of your family living nearby, that will obviously be a big focus for you.
Obviously, your family goes through different stages, such as when you have a baby or when your children are young, or when they grow up and leave home, and how you accommodate your and others’ personal needs will change, but it’s always worth the extra work invested in planning and arranging time to strengthen your relationships with your family. When you’re working very hard, thinking and praying about the needs of your children, how to be a help and support to them through each stage of their lives, and all the dynamics that go into raising a family, these times of fellowship and support with other members of your family can be very motivating and helpful.
While I don’t presently live near my children and grandchildren, over the past years I have been able to visit with them from time to time and to attend a few milestone events in their lives, which has been a blessing and an encouragement. These shared experiences were very enjoyable, as we had the privilege of celebrating together and acknowledging these milestones, along with each other’s victories, progress, and accomplishments. These times together with your family can bring much joy and help to create bonds and make memories that last a lifetime. Time together like this can bring an opportunity to pray together, or can bring to your attention things in family members’ lives which you can regularly pray for in your private prayer time. And when you share a family member’s burden in prayer throughout their journey, when the answer comes, it makes the rejoicing all the sweeter.
We clearly need time and fellowship with our family, but that’s not all we need. We can also grow and find joy through friendships, faith groups, business groups, volunteering, clubs, or meet-up groups. Having variety in our interactions with others helps to spice up our lives and brings new experiences, interests, and opportunities to learn and expand our horizons.
I’ve been reminded repeatedly how important and valuable it is to have friends, even if just a couple of close friends. I’m so grateful to the Lord that I have some really good friends, some of whom I’ve known for more than twenty years, and others I have been friends with for forty years. Some I see frequently, and others about once a year. It’s always a blessing to see them as we are all pretty much “on the same page” with a fair amount of shared history, faith, and experiences. I consider having such longtime friends one of the Lord’s greatest gifts to me. (Of course Maria, my wife, is my best friend and my greatest gift.)
Having friends is important to leading a fulfilling life. It’s worthwhile to invest in quality friendships, as they can be a lifesaver. Having someone you can talk to and who will pray for you will help you feel you’re not alone, especially if you’re feeling a heavy weight and burden in your work or personal life or family. It’s not just the spiritual fellowship and support, it’s also support in life and friendship, and that is such a beautiful and important thing.
The Bible says:
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.4
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.5
An unknown author wrote:
A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.
Making new friends
I understand that talking about friends might be a sad topic for some of you if you’re living in an isolated situation without any of your good long-time friends nearby. There are, however, different venues you can use to get the fellowship and time with friends you need. It doesn’t have to happen in person. While being able to meet in person with your friends is a blessing, if that’s not possible, as you know, there’s the telephone, video chat, social media, and other means you can use—generally all at no cost—and this can provide that sense of being “near even if far,” facilitating sharing of hearts, having prayer together, and just keeping in touch. For the most part, there are few barriers in this technically advanced world that should keep us from being able to bring some of that friendship contact in.
Having said that, there’s also the option of making new friends. I know that’s a big hurdle, as most people like to be friends with people who have the same life experience, and preferably people who “go way back” such as longtime relationships from work, university, sports, or in our case, shared Christian faith and experiences. However, every friend we currently have was once a stranger to us until we met them and started building a personal relationship.
Many find themselves in situations where new friends don’t have the same life experience and perhaps don’t share their faith beliefs. However, those new friendships can still be meaningful and strengthening, and can bring some benefits that older ones don’t.
I have been blessed to make some new friends over the past seven years who, although they aren’t Christians, have become close friends. Sadly, some of them aren’t interested in Christianity as they have had less than positive experiences in their past, but they know I’m a practicing Christian and that my faith is a crucial part of who I am. I do my best to be a good example of love, caring, generosity, and kindness, and to let them know that I pray for them. From time to time they ask for counsel on personal issues, which gives me an opportunity to give godly counsel and to share about the Lord. My hope and prayer is that in time they will become open to hearing more about the Lord and will receive Him. Even though they aren’t Christians, I value and benefit from their friendship.
If you feel isolated or lonely, it’s helpful to take the time to reach out and start building new friendships. Zig Ziglar said, “If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”6 Even though it will take time and it will never be exactly the same as the relationships you have with your decades-long friends, new friendships can be a blessing in unique ways.
Being a friend to others
I’ve talked about the joy that friendship gives us. But, of course, it’s not all about what’s in it for us. Sometimes we need to be a friend to others; sometimes the Lord leads us to people who need us to be there for them, to listen, to care. Usually friendships are mutually beneficial, but there are times when it might be a bit of a sacrifice, too. Maybe the other person needs you as a friend more than you need them. Maybe the other person is not your favorite personality type. Still, the Lord could be calling you to be a friend to that person, even if they are not your number-one choice of who to spend time with.
With the increase of social media, people are more and more “connected,” and yet there’s an epidemic of loneliness and isolation. People are forgetting how to talk to one another. Meeting people face to face has almost become a lost art. Mother Teresa once said: “The biggest disease today is not leprosy or cancer or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody.”7
You might be feeling a little lonely or wish things were different in your life, but there will always be someone who needs you. Reach out, be there for others. The Bible says, A man that hath friends must show himself friendly.8 Give of yourself and your time.
Maria and I pray that if you’re missing fellowship, personal interaction, companionship, friendship, and time with others, that the Lord will lead you to open doors and supply all that you need. I encourage you to take the first step and reach out to others and see how the Lord fulfills your needs in return.
1 Romans 12:5 ESV.
2 Psalm 133:1 ESV.
3 Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002).
4 Proverbs 17:17 ESV.
5 Ecclesiastes 4:9–10, 12 ESV.
7 Philippa Perry, “Loneliness is killing us,” The Guardian, February 17, 2014.
8 Proverbs 18:24 KJV.