Thrive in 5 – Spiritual
Have you ever noticed the irony of being a pastor working with people every day and yet personally experiencing deep loneliness? Do you sense that longing in your heart for deep, intimate friendship? Are you open to re-imagining your relationship with God as an intimate friendship? In his book, Beyond Loneliness: The Gift of God’s Friendship, Trevor Hudson suggests that friendship is “a helpful analogy for the intimate kind of relationship God wants with us. Put simply, the gospel invites us into friendship with God.” Here are five qualities of friendship with God as described by Hudson:
Friendship with God
1. Friendship with God is scriptural. As you reflect on these examples in Scripture, listen to God’s heart for friendship with you and allow the Spirit to stir up a longing in your heart. In the beginning, there were Adam and Eve in the garden. They walked, talked and worked with God. They were partners with God in caring for creation. Noah partnered with God in building the ark. Hagar, an outcast in the wilderness, encountered the “God who sees.” David expresses his intimate relationship with God throughout the Psalms. Daniel was not alone in the lion’s den. Can you identify other scriptural examples of people who had a close friendship with God? Which one do you identify with most? Why?
2. Jesus invites us to friendship. Jesus — Emmanuel, God With Us — is the ultimate example of friendship with God. His call to the disciples to “come and follow me” is initially an invitation to relationship, friendship with him. He welcomes them in. He makes time and space for them. He invites them to stay with him and do life together with him. He offers to transform them from the inside out. After his death and resurrection, he continues to deepen and grow the relationship by sending the Holy Spirit to be with them and in them. And so it is with us! Have you experienced personal friendship with Jesus? What could you change today to cultivate a closer friendship with Jesus?
3. Friendship is marked by intimate conversation. Just as with human friendships, friendship with God involves two-way, interactive communication. Think of the many ways that God communicated with people in Scripture: an audible voice, a burning bush, dreams and visions, other people like the prophets, a donkey, writing on the wall, angels, miracles, a still small voice, circumstances, creation, music, trials, Scripture. Our God is a very creative God and he knows how to get our attention. For our part, we want to be open and honest in our communication with God and then train ourselves to listen and become more attuned to his voice and the movements of his Spirit in our lives. Do you listen to God when you pray? Are you attuned to God’s voice throughout the day?
4. Friendship means no need to hide. Think about the qualities of a close, intimate friendship. This might include transparency, trust, accountability, enjoyment, patience, commitment, shared interests, reciprocity, mutual sharing, attentiveness, joy and unconditional love. In John 15:12-15, Jesus calls us friends. The vision, according to Dallas Willard, is to “live confidently in a personal walk and friendship with God, which is complemented and seasoned by on-going conversation with God” (Hearing God p. 13). How would it feel to have an honest, conversational intimacy with God? How would that impact your life?
5. Friendship means being present. Friendship involves being present, communicating, enjoying life together, sharing common interests and goals and just spending time together. Have you ever noticed how Jesus never seemed to be in a hurry? He knew how to be present with people. Jesus is present with you now, even as you are reading these words. He is inviting you to be present with him. Consider taking some time right now to be with Jesus, to converse with him, by praying and reflecting on your friendship with him through the following exercise
Friendship Exercise: (Taken from Beyond Loneliness by Trevor Hudson, p. 37)
After Adam and Eve disobeyed God they went into hiding. Notice what God says when he seeks them out in the garden. He doesn’t ask a question to shame them or cause them to cringe in fear behind the bushes. He asks a question that invites and encourages reconnection, “Where are you?” In Hudson’s words, “God’s question shows us that even when we mess up, when we let ourselves down, when we fail to obey God, God does not reject us. Nor does God give up on us. Rather God comes looking for us. God continues to pursue our companionship.”
Read Genesis 3:8-10. Sit quietly with the following question: Where are you? Allow it to percolate in your heart and mind. What do you sense God saying to you through it? In the form of a personal letter addressed to you by God, write down in your own words what you think God may be saying to you. After writing the letter, ask yourself: How do I feel about God inviting me into friendship? What steps can I take in response to this invitation?
To explore more about friendship with God, see the following:
Trevor Hudson. (2016). Beyond Loneliness: The Gift of God’s Friendship. Nashville, TN: Upper Room.
William A. Barry, SJ. (2008). A Friendship Like No Other: Experiencing God’s Amazing Embrace. Chicago: Loyola Press.
Dallas Willard. (2002). Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
Guest spiritual contributor: Linda Gist
Linda, a spiritual formation director in Sacramento, California, is a graduate of the Renovare© Institute for Christian Spiritual Formation and regularly leads retreats for pastors.
To contact Linda, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Linda’s website: Rhythms of Grace
Executive editor: Russ Gunsalus
Curator of content: Dave Higle