Mornings seemed so empty now. I used to love hustling through my usual routine to get my husband, Steve, off to work and the kids ready for school. I aimed at my cherished rewardtalking to my best friend Jean on the phone over a second or third cup of coffee. Her wit and godly advice gave my life focus and helped me work through the problems I faced. That is, until she moved two thousand miles away.
Withdrawal was hard. I dragged through my daily tasks, mentally carrying on one-sided conversations with Jean. No one else understood me as she did. Steve and I had a happy marriage, but somehow he didn't fit the bill for a girlfriend. I was on my own, or so I thought.
Early one morning I awoke, sensing God speaking to me. What about me, Virelle? How about letting me be your best friend? What a novel idea! God wasn't quite the same as a warm voice on the other end of a phone, but he certainly was never hard to reach. I wondered, though, if I could ask God the same things I asked Jeansilly stuff, perhaps, but important to me, such as how to handle a difficult neighbor, juggle a too-tight budget, teach our kids not to tattle, even figure out what to make for dinner. Could God really meet my needs like a best friend?
What I discovered changed my lifeand the lives of others. I've met others who sought intimacy with God after being hemmed in by a difficult marriage, physical or emotional pain, an unexpected move, or other trying circumstances. He never failed them either. If you ever feel isolated, as though no one truly understands how you feel, here are four truths about God's friendship you can nestle with:
God listens when no one else will.
He has time, limitless time, even if you talk all day. You just can't wear him out! God never says, "I'm too busy," or "Sorry, I'm listening to someone else at the moment," or "Not this problem again!" You are always first on God's list and nothing you say will ever sound silly or be repeated. Do you know anyone else so patient and trustworthy? What a wonderful friend he is!
After years of feeling boxed in with an angry, discouraged, unbelieving husband, my friend and prayer partner, Lisa, found encouragement in the life of Joseph in the Bible. God allowed Joseph to be mistreated, misunderstood, and unfairly imprisoned, but later transformed his life into one of richness and blessing. "Life has its prisons for each of us," Lisa reflected recently. "The Lord put me in a place where the only person I could rely on was him."
God knows you thoroughly and loves you anyway.
I may not be very lovable at times, but God loves me even when I don't like myself! One hot summer afternoon, when our four children were young, sticks in my memory. Half the neighborhood was playing in our yard, and I'd been settling fights all morning. As I wiped the last traces of peanut butter and jelly from the kitchen table, I heard a long wail from outside, "Mommy, Dave won't get off my swing, and he hit me!"
"Lord," I blurted out loud, "I can't stand my children right now! Is there anything wrong with that?"
Instantly I felt him answer my tired spirit, I know exactly how you feel, Virelle. Sometimes I can't stand my children either! Just see that you don't sin. What a relief to know God didn't condemn me in my bad moments, but cautioned me about what really matters to him.
Imagine a friend who cares enough to save all your tears in a bottle, to plan good things for you when you don't deserve them, and to give you perfect counsel every time you ask, even if it's not what you wanted to hear. This friend loved you enough to come to this world in a body like yours and offer it in death in exchange for your life. Can anyone love you more than that?
God acts powerfully on your behalf.
As many times as I turned to my best friend Jean for advice, encouragement, and help, she really couldn't do anything about my problems. She had a busy life and family of her own. But God acts on our behalf, working in us "to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil. 2:13). When we turn our life and concerns over to him, God not only changes things, he changes us into contagiously hopeful, loving people who want to do what pleases him. That's a miracle.
Yet, these lessons of faith are not automatic and are seldom learned easily. It's been four years since my friend Debbie's husband died of leukemia. Coping with life as a single mom to two little girls without their beloved daddy has been a lonely, faith-stretching marathon. Tears welled up in Debbie's eyes one day and she said, "Sometimes I wonder if God is enough. My intellect is certain he's enough. He's proven that on many occasions over the past six years, but sometimes it doesn't feel as though he's enough." Debbie recalled miraculous answers to prayer during her husband's sixteen months of illness. One time he needed emergency surgery to stop massive internal bleeding, but his blood platelet count was far too low to perform it safely. Debbie prayed, and God floored even the doctors and nurses by raising his count from 20,000 to more than 118,000 platelets for one day onlythe day of the surgery. Later, God brought her unexpected comfort after her husband's death by providing a vacation with her girls through the generosity of a friend.
Memories of God's faithfulness help Debbie trust God for the uncertainties ahead. But let's face it, loneliness hurts. And surrendering our will is a supreme test of faith. Can it be we sometimes need to feel God's longing for us, too?
God craves closeness with you.
One of the biggest discoveries of my life was realizing God has an Achilles heelhis strong and tender desire for intimacy with his children. How remarkable it is that he can be grieved by my indifference and lack of faith. True intimacy with God doesn't happen overnight. It requires time spent talking as best friends, sharing, listening, turning toward him with our deepest needs.
One way to foster closeness with God is through unguarded prayer, regular as a heartbeat. Tell him everything! Best friends are gut-level honest. When I believed Jesus' promise in Matthew 7:7, "Ask and it will be given you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you," I quit asking little "please bless and help so-and-so" prayers. Now I make huge requests only God could answer. What a rush it is to watch him respond to my small voice!
Realizing God is enough even in the worst of circumstances has changed the way I respond to life in several ways:
I'm learning to run expectantly to God with my fears, perplexities, and emotional needs. After I pour it all in his lap, he often gives me a new perspective, a Scripture verse, or just the right counsel through another person or a radio voice. Then when I turn to my husband, friend, or prayer partner, I no longer expect them to meet my deepest needs. I know God will do that.
I'm convinced God's character is consistently loving and good, even when circumstances appear otherwise. Looking back on trials, I see the tracings of God's ways, the wisdom of his design. God is in control. His sovereignty in my life gives me the peace and confidence to know that nothing can happen to me unless it's passed by him first. Now, rather than moaning when things don't please me, I try to quiet my thoughts with the clear memory of all God's goodness in the past.
It's becoming uncomfortably easier to recognize when I've displeased God. He makes me instantly miserable when I allow myself the luxury of a lousy attitude or, worse, a stubborn refusal to do the right thing. I'm also learning the joy of pleasing God is far greater than the small satisfaction of getting my own way or having others think well of me. Now, even though I often miss the mark, I long to be obedient, even in the tiniest measure.
It was five years after Jean moved away before God gave me another best girlfriend. By that time my deepened friendships with God, my husband, and family made me forget how heavily I once depended on others.
Like my friends Lisa and Debbie, I don't like it when God confines me in difficult circumstances, but I've found he holds me close there and makes the trial at least bearable. No matter what happens, God will prove himself the most loving father and best friend anyone could have. He IS enough!
Virelle Kidder is an author and conference speaker who lives in upstate New York.