By Matthew Lewis
As I sat at home on a normal day, I was playing video games when suddenly I got a message that a good friend of mine has moved right across from me. At the time, I was very independent. I liked to be left alone and didn’t want to constantly entertain someone around me. So when I heard the news, I was happy but also a bit worried that they were moving in so close to me. Shorty after they moved in, he wanted to hang out all the time. I simply didn’t want to and he took offense to that. "Whatever", I thought and shrugged it off.
One night, I was talking with a friend over the phone about how I didn't get my own space anymore. It was hard to get any type of peace because I felt like I was stuck. I was constantly having to please someone else for their entertainment.
Then, dread came over me... turns out, my friend was listening on the other side of the wall. He had heard the whole conversation and ended up scolding me for it. He left extremely saddened and disappointed in me. If I'm being honest, I was disappointed in myself too.
Losing a friend seems to be a common rite of passage for people. I've found, however that few are willing to talk about the pain and heartache that comes with such a loss. I can't tell you how many times I tried googling “How to deal with losing a friend” and found little support and encouragement among the Christian community (hence this blog). There were countless websites giving me marriage, parenting, or self-help advice, but no one, it seemed, knew how to lose a friend.
Though this happened years ago, I can still remember the hurt, confusion, and raw emotion which spilled into my days during that season.
As I reflect on it, I realize how much healing has taken place—healing I never thought would happen. And while I am grateful for it, I don't want to forget the hard-learned lessons I accumulated in my journey from broken-hearted to restored and renewed. So here are a few things I've learned and I hope they can help you today.
1. Be sure to grieve the loss of your friendship.
I've always assumed grief was reserved for death and the grave. So I found myself confused with I was greiving for someone who was very much alive. But in a very real sense, a death had occurred though it took me a long time to see it.
Grief is the natural response to loss. Like I said, we commonly associate it with the death of a loved one, it is natural to feel grief when a loss of any kind occurs. For instance: the death of a dream, the loss of a job, a loss of innocence, or the death of a friendship.
Grieving loss can't be rushed. The natural progression of emotions takes as long as it takes. Though these emotions are painful, they are a sign that we cared deeply about someone. Rushing through grief can delay healing. Unfortunately, learning to live with the heaviness is part of the process.
Through this loss, God taught me that it was okay to grieve. My friend was a good friend and worthy of my tears. Our failures were costly and worthy of my lament.
Grieving is a way to honor what was and acknowledge a part of our life which may never be the same again.
2. Know that some friendships weren't mean to last forever.
I’ve noticed a difference in some friendships since dedicating my life fully to God. At times, it comes in the form of mocking of my faith. After sharing a great story that feels highly inspiring, sometimes there can be a form of rejection and mocking.
At first, this new dynamic was hard to swallow; it felt like I was being torn between two worlds. It was great getting invites to dinner or drinks with friends. Yet I had so many exciting changes happening in my life that I wanted to share. It seemed clear that the topic of faith was odd and perhaps a little unbelievable to some.
On one particularly hard day, I drove home feeling like a total outcast. I asked God how to bridge the gap between faith and friends and prayed for His continued guidance. Then, I started fiddling around with radio stations and found a sermon about spiritual suffering.
The priest mentioned that suffering for our faith comes with our continued growth. My discouragement gradually changed to encouragement. I could see that I was suffering for reason.
When we draw closer to God, we can end up suffering on many levels – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – but suffering in the name of Jesus is a high compliment. In fact, the apostle Peter wrote, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.(1 Peter 4:14)."
This verse isn't saying that it feels good to lose friends or see friendships weaken (or suffer in other ways). We shouldn't seek persecution. But, when these things do happen in our lives, it tests our character and produces endurance in the faith.
I believe that evil will do all it can to work through situations and people to cause us to doubt or even abandon our paths. But by understanding that we have to lose our life to gain it (even if that means a certain type of social life), we embrace the totality of the life God gave us to live. This life has doors waiting to open and miracles waiting to happen.
Losing friends doesn’t mean those friendships are lost forever. You never know if you'll reconnect in the future after time has past and hurts have healed.
Differences challenge us, but the challenge is a good one. It’s during the tough times that we discover what we’re made of, especially when we endure them while remaining respectful and kind to others.