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How To Develop Healthy Friendships: 5 Tips

For the last 10 years I’ve had an annual catch up with a group of friends I went through Bible College with. They’re a set of relationships that though we don’t speak frequently, when we catch up, we’re able to pick up where we left off last time, which is a great joy. How do we develop and sustain healthy relationships over the long term?

1. Realise When We Are Bringing An Unhealthy Dynamic To Our Friendships

All of us are on a journey to maturity in our relationships. One sign that we need to grow in maturity, is that we find ourselves regularly frustrated by the closeness or lack of closeness in our friendships. What I mean is that on the one hand, there are people in our life that we find ourself constantly miffed that we don’t get to spend more time with them, or that they don’t seem to value the relationship as much as we do. When they think of us, or act in kindness to us, or spend time with us, then we are happy. But when they don’t, we find it hard not to be down and a bit depressed.

On the other hand, and often at the same time, we will most likely have people that we wish we could distance ourselves from. They seem to value the relationship more than we do, and just don’t get the hint that we’re not as into it as much as they are. What do we do if these signs of immaturity are present?

2. Realise That The Solution Brings Conflict To Friendships

Hopefully if you’ve read previous posts from me, you would realise that Jesus will be a key part of the answer to any problem raised. This is certainly the case when it comes to developing healthy friendships. But that also brings some problems with it too. Throughout history, whenever people have started genuinely following Jesus, it has brought seasons of intense conflict.

We see this in the book of Acts, where figures like Paul brought Jesus into new cities, which drew some people into relationship with him, but also radically provoked others to be against him. Many cities he visited, he was ultimately chased out of town. In the 15th century reformation of the church, Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. In the 17th century revivals, figures like John Wesley drew large crowds as he preached the message of Jesus, but he also frequently faced people in those crowds throwing rotten fruit at him, they were so deeply opposed to the message John Wesley carried. As God moves in people’s lives, how do we stay healthy in our relationships despite the inevitable conflict that arises?

3. Realise That Healthy Relationships Flow From a Place of Contentment

In the letter to the Philippians, Paul raises the fact that he has just received a financial gift from those he is writing too. But in recognising this gift, he is very clear that he is not dependent on their support. He is not fused to them in a way that they suddenly have control over him.

‘I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.’ (Philippians 4:10-12)

Paul shows us a key for healthy relationships: contentment. If we can face situations of lack as well as situations of plenty and still be content, then we are in a place to bless others and to be blessed by them, in a way that’s healthy. The question is, how do we do this?

4. Realise That Contentment Comes From Finding Strength in God

‘I can do all this through him who gives me strength.’ (Philippians 4:13)

Literally Paul is saying, ‘I am strong for all things, in the one who strengthens me’. His trust is fully in the Lord, regardless of his circumstances. He has had a revelation of God through Jesus Christ, who was ‘obedient to death’, before ‘God exalted him to the highest place’ (Philippians 2:8-9). He knows that as he obediently walks through whatever season God puts him in, that God ultimately lift him up in strength. This is the source of his contentment. He doesn’t need to grasp at strength or riches or glory, because he knows in Christ God will provide all that he needs. God has shown him that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

5. Look To God As Your Provider For Strength

The natural implication of all this is to say that if we want healthy relationships, then we need to look to God as the one who will meet our needs. Paul comes back to the financial gift he’s received from the Philippians. He recognises how significant it is for him personally - both their previous gifts when he first shared the gospel with them (cf. Acts 16-17), but also their recent gift as he sits in prison, most likely in Rome. But then he gives the glory to God, he is the ultimate provider. All that the Philippians have done is ‘a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God’ (Philippians 4:18b). Then Paul directs the Philippians to keep looking to this same God (not to Paul or anyone else): ‘my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:19).

I heard the story of a ministers wife who had a member of the congregation she was part of unload on her about all the ways she and her husband had let this particular man down. The overwhelmed ministers wife prayed for God’s wisdom and words to respond and then said to the man words to effect: ‘I can see that you’re really hurting and that there are things that you need right now, but myself and my husband cannot be the ultimate source of meeting those needs, they will only our great provider, and I really encourage you to look to him in this situation you are facing.' The man calmed down, and in a clear moment of God’s grace, responded by saying, ‘You’re right!'

Let’s take our needs to God and recognise God’s hand through one another as he works through us to meet one another’s needs.


About the Author

Jai Wright is a Christian Minister, who founded and leads MAKE Church in Mackay, Qld. He recently published the book, Life Plugged In: Connecting with the Source of Peace, Power and Purpose.

You might like to think a little bit more about your spiritual health, by taking the Spiritual Health Check Score Card here.

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