A Source of Joy
During my younger and more insecure years I hate to admit that my happiness depended a lot on my friends.
My source of happiness laid on the shoulders of all those I held dearest in my life, and I think that is why when I was at my most insecure, I socialized with a lot of different people because each friend would meet a different need in my life, and that way it was not just one person who held all the responsibility.
Becoming a healthy friend and having healthy expectations in our friendships is a lifelong journey.
I think the most uncomplicated time of friendships happened in my pre-teen days. There was a group of us gals who would hang out and we did not have a lot of expectations except that we had a lot of fun and it was easy.
I had lost my childhood friends in high school as I choose to hang out with an older girl who was my neighbour. This friendship became super toxic and vastly unhealthy but was super impressionable on me. It did not help that I was just coming out of my childhood abuse and what I thought I was walking into: freedom from abuse, actually became a long, dark, depressed, angry few years.
So, when I started making healthy friendships in College I felt ecstatic to think all these amazing people were in my life to make me happy.
I did not know any better.
But God taught me a lot about friendships and relationships over the following decades (did I just pluralize the word decade?)- and let us be honest, I am still learning.
The seasons when my dependence on my friends to make me happy were great, would be the times God would remove them from my life. All of a sudden, they were m.i.a. and for no reason.
I have seen this happen in several seasons in my life- where I will be starting to really depend on them for my happiness, putting a lot of expectations to make and keep me happy, and then God would step in and remove them.
God removed them because that is an unhealthy mindset in friendships and I needed to learn that.
My friends are not responsible for my happiness. My source of happiness should be found within myself and in God.
God wants to be and is my source of happiness.
I really struggled with God around this for many years.
A few years ago God give me a new mindset around this:
Your friends are not your source of happiness, but they are a source of joy.
They can also be a source of many other emotions, but that is a relationship issue for another day.
I have been really sitting with this mentally over the last couple of years because friendships have always, and do mean so much to me.
But God has been really working on shifting and shaping what a healthy friendship looks like. He has done that in and through my friendships. He has shown me through others sharing what their friendships look like and through literature written by psychology and counselling professionals.
God was growing me from the mindset that friends were my source of my happiness to a source of joy was the first step, and the second was a matter of grace.
- elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action
- a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment
- a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior
- favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity
- an allowance of time after a debt or bill has become payable granted to the debtor before suit can be brought against him or her or a penalty applied
1. the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.
2. the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.
3. a virtue or excellence of divine origin
4. Also called state of grace. the condition of being in God's favor or one of the elect.
- moral strength
What does the Bible say about grace?
- Speaking graciously helps your image/standing with others “One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.” Proverbs 22:11 NIV
- We should always speak in a tone of grace “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6 NIV
- We all have grace “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” Ephesians 4:7 NIV
- Grace covers sin “The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,” Romans 5:20 NIV
- We cannot rely on ourselves, but we can rely on God’s grace “Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.” 2 Corinthians 1:12 NIV
- God’s grace is more than sufficient for our needs “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV
- Grace can help us get rid of bitterness “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15 NIV
God revealed to me that I have this grace within me and that grace works a multitude of ways for my betterment.
Grace is what saved me.
Grace is within me and I should be bestowing this on to others as God has given it to me.
So, when I am feeling upset or let down by my friends there is grace for that.
This revelation of having grace for others really set me free of many expectations and internal mindsets I had towards my friends. I feel in many ways it has prevented me from being upset or even given me the space to think logically through if what had happened was in fact malicious, or if it was just part of our flawed nature.
It has helped me to see my friends in a new light.
They do not have to carry the torch of keeping me happy, and they do not owe me my happiness.
I think there is also a flip side to this and I want to state that giving grace does not mean friends get off the hook of being toxic or being mean; it just means that it gives you the mental and emotional space to have a healthy perspective on the situation.
Grace allows me to remove myself from the moment, evaluate, pray and seek wise counsel if a conversation needs to be had, or if it something is simply to be let go.
I have learned over the years to let go the reigns of expectations in a lot of my relationships and to free myself from being hurt in things that did not have merit. It has taken away numerous possibilities of disappointment and it has given me back my clarity to stand up for myself and use my voice when I know something needs to be addressed.
Consider this, what if you worked on changing your mindset in your friendships? What if we took the stance of- friends are sources of joy, not our source of happiness, and let grace be our guide in how we handle flawed encounters?
Could we free ourselves from a lot of hurt, confusion, disappointment, assumptions and pain?
My hope for you today is that you encounter this mindset and start using God’s grace to help direct you in all your relational encounters and that you are set free from any hurt and disappointment in your heart in the area of friendships.