Growing in Grace through Soul Friendships

Are you growing in grace?

Do you have friendships in your life that draw you closer to the Lord?

The most important goal in life as a believer in Jesus Christ is to grow in knowing Him more and becoming more like Him. So, if that is your goal in life, then it only stands to reason that you would desire to have friends with similar feelings and wants.

We end up with many different relationships in life, and there is a range to the depth of intimacy our relationships reach. The people you are closest to have the greatest influence on you and you on them. Their influence can be for good or for the worst. This helps us recognize why it is so important to make wise decisions or choices especially in our closest relationships. This is also why I asked if you have friendships that draw you closer to the Lord. Growing in grace should be a top priority and a soul friend can be a great help in that.

You may be wondering at this point what I mean when I say “soul friend.” Soul friend is a term I read about when I was doing a little personal studying on the spiritual disciplines. I was familiar with many of the disciplines mentioned, like meditation, prayer, study, solitude and silence, but I had not heard of that of “soul friendship.”

The following qualities are found in a soul friend, she or he:

  • has an intimate relationship with the Lord
  • lifts you up in prayer
  • shares honestly and truthfully with you
  • listens and empathises with you
  • helps you find your way to the Lord when you are distracted, frustrated, hurting, angry, or overwhelmed
  • helps you to hear and know the Lord’s truth about your situation

Mindy Caliquire says that a “spiritual friend” or “soul friend” helps us sit with God and helps us pay attention to Him.

We can be real with a soul friend, confess our problems, sins, share our needs, and be fragile enough to say ‘I need help.’ These kinds of friendships take time to form and develop, and often, I believe, they really come in answer to prayer.

I have been blessed with three soul friends in my life.  Three women who I have known varying lengths of time, but have grown deep with each because of our sharing. These friends do not know each other, they may have only heard me mention the others names. In each of these relationships our sharing with one another is all about honesty, asking probing questions, encouraging each other to seek wisdom, and praying for each other as we would pray for ourselves.

Each one of these three friends is a person I can share my deepest pain with. I can share the part of myself that I rarely tell anyone about. The pain that gets triggered at the most unexpected time, the pain that really makes no sense in the current situation but is all about the hurt of the past. I can be real and share the hurt I feel in a situation, or explain why I reacted. I can explain my reaction as it is connected to my pain, and they will know and connect with me in it. They will reassure me. And it works both ways, I know their inner conflicts and deep hurts, as well as their insecurities and I can be there for them.

Our conversations center around life, how we feel about life, what the Lord is teaching us, and where we are struggling. Our conversations always include how we can pray for each other, sharing Bible verses that touch our hearts, and giving God the glory for what He is doing.

None of us are squeaky clean, on the verge of perfection and knowing it all. We all are struggling in our own ways and we all need help for this journey called life.

We each need at least one soul friend in our lives. There are a couple of verses from God’s Word that come to mind as I share about soul friends. One is Proverbs 27:17:

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. 

A soul friend helps you grow in the things of the Lord, in learning about Him, in learning His Word, in learning about living in Christlikeness. Iron is sharpened.

The other verse is just a couple of verses further into chapter 17 of Proverbs at verse 19:

“Oil and perfume rejoice the heart; so does the sweetness of a friends counsel that comes from the heart.”

The “sweetness of a friends counsel,” words spoken in truth and with love are so sweet. Those words connect our hearts in very special ways and keep us coming back to one another for more support, encouragement, and help. And, more importantly, we find our soul friends leading us back to the love of the Lord, to His wisdom, and that is truly irresistable.

If you do not have a soul friend in your life right now, ask the Lord to show you who He desires you to have that kind of relationship with, and let Him lead you in it.  He can and will make it happen, because there is nothing He wants more than for us to be growing in knowing and loving Him as we enjoy His love in others. He wants us to be growing in grace. He answers these prayers in amazing ways! You won’t be disappointed.

Next post we will consider Growing in Grace through Meditation, Reflection, and Journaling.


The Importance of Connection

How are your relationships with those most important to you?

We can become so over-focused and busy that our deepest connections are set aside. We personally end up hidden in the charades of performance, in the busyness of accomplishing, and the real self is lost. We become people-pleasers. We work hard to get ahead, seeking to get the accolades. But this only leads to our being unavailable to give to those we desire intimacy with.

Shauna Niequist, in her book Present Over Perfect, says that when you begin to say yes to everyone indiscriminately, you actually end up saying no to some very important people and things. It usually means that you have less to give to those you are closest to you, like your immediate family and dearest friends.

I know, as a teacher for many years, I spent endless hours at home preparing things and doing work that I did not have time for during the school day. I realize how “over-focused” I was on getting the job done. This left very little time for relaxing with and really being with my husband. Back then, it seemed like a must, like it just had to be that way, but now as I am prompted to think about it again, I know I would want to do it differently.

What is swallowing up you and your life so much that you are missing out on the important relationships in your life?

Change begins by answering that question honestly, and from there you must decide if it is worth it to you to have your life consumed in that way.

Shauna starts out by simply drawing concentric circles with herself in the center and then putting people within the circles according to the depth of relationship. When you take time to do this and look carefully at what you see on your paper, you can evaluate where your focus is and decide where it should be.

We all need connection in our lives but we personally decide who gets more of us. Intimacy doesn’t grow without making your heart and true self available. It takes time and effort. When we are physically and emotionally depleted by what we have given away, we become unavailable to those closest. Unavailable because of being too tired or too busy.

I recognized this when I was working a lot, but didn’t see anything that I could do different, and truthfully didn’t have the energy to change it. Now, looking back and seeing how my relationship with my husband has grown since I do have time to give to the relationship, I regret not having done it sooner. I always would want to do my best job, but when it is at the expense of those I love it becomes of question of choices.

When we look at Jesus we see that we could make concentric circles to show His relationships. He was, of course, closest to His Heavenly Father. But, here on earth, we see that He had an inner circle of three, those being Peter, James, and John. Those three were the men He had deeper relationships with and spent a lot of time with. He was in their lives. From there we see that He gave of Himself to the 12 disciples; teaching, leading, and befriending them. And then we see, beyond that, there were the 70, these had access to Jesus on occasions briefly, they weren’t consistently in His life. There were multitudes of people clamoring for Jesus’ attention, with needs and desires, and Jesus had to make choices. His choices were made through prayer. He spoke with His Heavenly Father about who the 12 should be. It wasn’t left to chance. Yet, He showed a level of love and compassion to all.

It is important to know in our hearts where we are going to be willing to put our energy so that we can be deeply connected to those we love. We need to make a heart commitment to a few and give ourselves mostly to them. When we spread ourselves too thin we become unavailable in important ways.

Connection, relationship, and intimacy are necessary parts to all of our lives, but we must make important choices throughout life. No matter what stage we are in, we need to make sure that we are available to those who should matter most.

Are you deeply connected to a few or are you in the charades of perfection and busyness giving yourself away indiscriminately? Talk to your Heavenly Father, ask Him to lead you in the decisions you need to make regarding your connections and relationships. Jesus demonstrates a perfect example for us. Follow Him!