Nearing the end of the year, I look back at the past year and give thanks. I give thanks for the health God has still blessed me with, the opportunities He has given me, and the things He has taught me. But above all, I give thanks for the people He has put into my life this year that have helped me grow into who I am now. 

Friends — they’re the people we socialise with the most. Averaging about 30 hours per week, interacting with our friends is a major part of our teenage life. Whether we have many friends, or maybe just a few close friends—we always long for true friendship. After the first man, Adam was created, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) Yes, we are created as ‘social beings’. Therefore relationships are very important to us. 

The importance of friendship 

I am sure we all now understand how important our relationships with friends are. The pandemic situation this year forced us to go into yet another lockdown that lasted the whole school term. It constrained us to mingle with our friends and made us distant. I became more aware of how our friends and our interactions with them can have a big influence on us. 

We all know our friends can influence our desires, interests and hobbies and even some of our thoughts. Most of us have also heard of ‘peer pressure’ or FOMO within our friendship circle that may lead us to do things that we wouldn’t normally do. But during lockdown, I truly realised that friendships could affect our motivation, mood and even change our entire worldview and outlook on life. For instance, many of my classmates found that we were losing motivation to study during lockdown because they did not get as much interaction with their friends or peers as they would in a normal classroom setting. Many also became sadder, anxious and pessimistic amidst the dreary lockdown without the daily interactions with their friends. They turned to playing video games, binge-watching Netflix and scrolling through Tik Tok, but all these efforts did not make things any better. 

This led me to wonder: if our friendships can have such a big influence on our lives, then why do so many people in our generation choose and treat friendship carelessly? 

Our friendships (and any of our relationships with other people) are very important. They will shape our lives, thus we should be careful and pay more attention about who we choose to befriend. 

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”
Proverbs 13:20 

The breakdown of our social circles 

By no means am I saying we should only befriend a certain type of person, and I definitely do not imply that we should only be friends with Christians who have the same beliefs as us. However, we should be aware of the breakdown of our social circles and exactly where each one of our friends stands. 

Simply said, our social circles can be further broken down into several tiers. This may include our acquaintances, our casual friends, and our close friends. You may be just like me, ‘knowing’ many people in your grade just by their names and faces but have never talked to them. You may wave to others when you pass by on your way to class. However, when it comes to your inner circle of close friends, they are the people whom you sit with at recess and lunch breaks. You know them, and they know you quite well too. You feel comfortable sharing your life with them and confide in them about your problems.

Now let me tell you this: Not everyone can be let easily into that inner circle of yours.

This special circle is only meant for the people you carefully choose as your closest (prayerfully true) friends; they are the ones who will have the biggest impact on your life. As much as we would like to have many close friends, we need to understand that these friends will not only have the ability to influence your interests, thoughts or life direction—but can also lead us closer to or further away from God. So choose wisely. 

Signs of a true friend 

  1. True friends love us and point us to Christ

True friends show Christ-likeness in their lives. None of our earthly friends can ever compare to Christ, the ultimate true Friend who was willing to sacrifice Himself on the cross for us. However, God still calls us all to be true friends by loving one another, just as how Christ loved us. True friends are selfless and put their friends’ before themselves. They also evangelise God’s truth to us so that we can experience the delight of the Lord together. In a true friendship, we should feel ourselves drawing closer to God day by day and growing in the knowledge of Him alongside our friend.  

“ My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  
John 15:12-13

  1. True friends pray for us and encourage us 

True friends will pray for us and encourage us amidst our struggles in life. They will support us and will direct us to depend on God through all our hardships. The encouragement from true friends will help motivate us to obey God, even when it is hard to do so. Our true friends are the people who will lend a listening ear when we want to share and will also help carry our burdens by praying for us. 

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”  
1 Thessalonians 5:11 

  1. True friends hold us accountable 

True friends are people who we can trust, people who will not judge or reject us and will honestly but lovingly point out our sins. As Christians, we should have our circle of brothers and sisters in Christ that we can count on to hold us accountable. This may be our connect group friends, or friends who serve in ministry together. As children of God, they too will understand how it feels like to be the minority in our society today. These true friends help to support us as we fall into sin and suffering and offer us Godly counsel amidst the worldly things we face each day. 

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” 
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

These are some of the signs of true friends that we should look out for in our inner circle. Pray that we can find true friends and also become one ourselves to show Christ’s love to others around us. 

More than friendship 

And now we move on to the elephant in the room, a ‘more than friendship’ relationship. Yep, you guessed it—I’m talking about dating. 

Out of the other relationships that we have been exploring and reflecting on in the past couple of weeks, this is the only one I have not experienced (and I’m sure it is the case for many of you too). But certainly, we’ve all seen our fair share of romantic relationships from all the Hollywood romcoms and the k-dramas that we watched. Many of us may also know that some of our friends are starting to dabble into romantic relationships. It is also possible for some of you to wish for such a relationship yourselves. 

However, before we jump onto the bandwagon and dive into romantic relationships, we need to know of the danger attached to it, especially in today’s culture. Society today takes dating lightly and many people date with no intention of marriage. The media today has twisted what God had intended for dating and marriage to be and has falsely made young people build up their own expectations and ideals for what it should be. 

Now let me burst your bubble. Romantic relationships are more than just romance. Dating and marriage should be in God’s time and should be according to what God intends it to be, that is, to display the amazing redemptive story of Christ and His bride—the church. Therefore, it should be done in loftiness of respect and responsibility to God. 

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” 
Genesis 2:24

In God’s time, if at all, we will be called to get married and start our own families. We need to remember that God should always be the centre in all. For all the things that we do in life, we should seek to please and glorify God—and this is no different in the context of romantic relationships. 

Rather than searching for ‘the one’ in this time of our lives, we should wait for God’s perfect timing and arrangement. We should ask in prayer for our future significant other to be someone who fears and loves God and will accompany us in our work for Him in our lives. 

As we reflect on the roller coaster ride that 2021 has been, I would like to pose a few questions to examine ourselves:

  • Have our relationships with others been godly just like the way that God intends them to be? 
  • Have we become a true friend to others around us so that they may see Christ’s love through us? 

Venturing into a new year, I hope that we may reflect on all our relationships that God has blessed us with this year. First and foremost is our relationship with God. Then our relationship with our family. Lastly is our relationship with our friends. May our relationships be used as instruments to glorify God even more in the coming year.