It’s Okay to Admit that Losing Friends Hurts

friendsLosing friends hurts.

Sometimes I think that if all the energy we pour into avoiding that fact were spent elsewhere, we would have cured world hunger by now.

The memes clutter our feeds.

“We never lose real friends, we only lose fake ones.”

“Be yourself and the right people will gravitate towards you.”

“Those who can’t handle your worst, don’t deserve your best.”

“If they didn’t stay, they were never meant to.”

And today I found myself wondering…Who are we trying to convince?

Over the years, I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost them because of moving. I’ve lost them because they got “too busy to call”. I’ve lost them because they got married and I didn’t. I’ve lost them because they got married and wanted to stay friends, but they were female and it was no longer appropriate. I’ve lost them because they’ve drifted away from God and all the awkwardness that causes in the coffeeshop (I should have fought harder for those). I’ve lost friends because we lacked common hobbies. I’ve lost them because I was really just part of their Bible study, or a hold-over, until they found someone more compatible. And I’ve lost friends simply because one of us changed, or finally revealed their darker side, and the other decided they didn’t like what they were seeing.

I’m not a special case. Life winnows things away, and friends are no exception. It’s left me with a small but pretty unassailable group of close friends I know I can count on, no matter how many the miles and misunderstandings. We’re in it for the long haul. (Hi, DJ!) I want to jump out a window with joy when I think of those people.

But the lost ones still hurt.

Sure, some people are best left in the past.

But it still hurts. We should all be making more of an effort to stay friends even when people aren’t perfect. How many of my old friendships could have been fought for, were we wiser back then?

And it hurts is because it affects my present friendships. I find myself worrying about them moving, or being disgusted at some new weakness they see. I wonder if they’re just tolerating me until they find someone better. It all feels…tenuous.

So yeah…lost friendships hurt.

Maybe it’s time we just admitted it. Admitted that we deserved better, that they should have fought harder (or that we should have), that even fairweather friends can truly sting on their way out. And that maybe some of them were better than we remember.

I think of a few Scripture verses…

“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)

Enough suns have gone down on my lost friendships to account for a star cluster. The foothold is there, and we call it “bitterness”. Sour grapes fill no one. It’s better to forgive.

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15)

I know we want to see God as gentle. But rationalizing away all the sober warnings is…too convenient. God is outside of us; he’s bigger than us; he’s his own person, independent of the constructs of our mind. Perhaps he’s allowed to be stern if need be. Perhaps we would be wise to heed him. Fail to forgive, and bad things happen.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1)

Wow. Do you see how God isn’t falling back on “everything happens for a reason, don’t feel bad” here? He’s agreeing that our heart can be broken, and that it matters to him.

Oh, believer. God wants to heal us of the painful things that have come. There are many such things in this life, and the sting of betrayal is one of them. If it mattered to us, it matters to him.

But it can’t happen until we forgive, and it can’t happen until we mourn. Any counselor can tell you a wound unacknowledged is a wound unhealed. God is the Wonderful Counselor. He wants to heal.

And now the best part…

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

This verse finds its ultimate expression in God himself. God is that friend. He created you, knows you better than anyone else, and is incapable of leaving those who follow him. To do so would be faithlessness on his part, a contradiction of his perfect character.

One benefit of God’s enormity and vastness is that he is capable finding everyone interesting and worthy of friendship. If you are a Christian, you needn’t worry that you’re too boring, too broken, or in any way undeserving, for your sins have been taken away by the blood of Christ. You are free to find a friend in him.

He is not an imaginary friend; you cannot make him up; indeed, cultivating friendship with the unseen God requires work. And it requires obedience. But it is worth it. Oh, so worth it. I’m only just beginning to discover how.

Let  us mourn the past, and then release it to a bright future.

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