My #1 Secret for Cultivating Enduring Friendships {+Never Unfriended Book Review}

A Christian Girl's Guide to Cultivating Enduring Friendships. Today I’m spilling my all-time, number-one, best-of-the-best secret to building friendships with other women that last. But first, a confession… | Best Friends | Friendship Advice | Healthy Friendships | Friendship Secrets

Today I’m spilling my all-time, number-one, best-of-the-best secret to cultivating enduring friendships.

But first, a confession…

I am the only person I know who managed to get all the way through college without one single enduring friendship.

Not. A. One.

Oh, there were a few times when I thought I’d met my match.

I stuck with my best friend from grade school like a fly to paper, but immaturity and competition eventually sucked the life out of that relationship.

Thre was one bright moment of friendship bliss in my 8th-grade year that fizzled, sputtered, and died before I stepped foot in high school.

And my best friend from college was my rock for a season, but we are now as distant as the thousands of miles that separate us.

My early twenties weren’t much better.

Every time I developed a deep connection with another woman, she quickly packed her belongings and moved far, far away.

SIX painful times in less than a decade, I said goodbye to beautiful women I hoped would become my enduring friends.

Yes, we stay in touch through Facebook and the occasional phone call,  but it’s just not the same.

A Christian Girl's Guide to Cultivating Enduring Friendships. Today I’m spilling my all-time, number-one, best-of-the-best secret to building friendships with other women that last. But first, a confession… | Best Friends | Friendship Advice | Healthy Friendships | Friendship Secrets

When you’re tempted to give up.

By my mid-twenties I was convinced that I’d become Wiley Coyote and cultivating enduring friendship was my Roadrunner.

All of my best plans, schemes, and brilliant ideas end in failure.

The temptation to hide in a hole and never, ever come out was so strong.

Yet, a lifetime of Bible study taught me the importance of cultivating enduring friendship:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“Iron sharpens iron; so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

In my loneliness and pain, I cried out to Jesus—the friend who sticks closer than a brother—and asked Him to show me a better way.

Enter the all-time, number-one, best-of-the-best friendship secret I’ve ever learned!

A Christian Girl's Guide to Cultivating Enduring Friendships. Today I’m spilling my all-time, number-one, best-of-the-best secret to building friendships with other women that last. But first, a confession… | Best Friends | Friendship Advice | Healthy Friendships | Friendship Secrets

But first, an illustration.

Imagine with me that you are planning a family road-trip to Disneyland, The Happiest Place on Earth (or more recently, The Place Where Dreams Come True).

You’ve done your research and discovered that it is a 1,631.4 mile drive from your home in South Dakota.

Ok, so I’m obviously the one planning the trip here. So let’s  just imagine that you are helping me…

We’ve got two vehicles to choose from.

The first is a rusty old Volkswagen van that has spent the last decade “aging” in a nearby pasture. We put a couple of gallons of gas and a liter of oil in it and pray for the best. By some miracle, the manual transition actually starts! The tires are low and teenagers filled the back end with rocks a few summers back, but the rusty old VW manages the 4.5 mile drive home without any catastrophic failures. We even managed to hit 25 miles per hour at one point.

The second option is a 10-year-old Chrysler minivan. It’s not new, but it is well cared for. It’s recently had a full maintenance check and passed with flying colors. The tires are about 6-months old and it gets a smooth 22 mpg on the highway. It has a built-in media center for the kiddos and the air conditioning and cruise control make for comfortable driving. The very best feature of this van is the stow-and-go seating which opens up lots of room for luggage, snacks, and toys.

Which vehicle should we choose?

It’s a no-brainer, right? The Chrysler Minivan all the way!

So what does this illustration have to do with cultivating enduring friendships?

I’m glad you asked…

If we want to make it to The Place Where All Our Friendship Dreams Come True, we must choose the right vehicle for the journey.

A Christian Girl's Guide to Cultivating Enduring Friendships. Today I’m spilling my all-time, number-one, best-of-the-best secret to building friendships with other women that last. But first, a confession… | Best Friends | Friendship Advice | Healthy Friendships | Christian Friendships

Healing from Broken Friendships of the Past

Somewhere in my mid-twenties, I looked in the mirror and all I could see was a beat up old Volkswagen.

A lifetime of broken relationships and painful separations followed by a few years “out to pasture” rusted my exterior and weighed down my heart with stones of regret and resentment.

I was not fit for friendship.
I lacked resilience.
I needed a complete overhaul.

In the real world, there’s no way to transform a VW Van into a Chrysler Minivan.

Thankfully, God isn’t limited by the laws of nature!

When we invite Jesus Christ into our rusty, broken-down heart, He transforms us into something vibrant and new.

The love of Jesus fills us up in a way that no human ever could and gives us the resilience we need to endure the “long-haul” of friendship.

I learned this lesson young, but I didn’t start living this lesson until the day I decided to become the kind of friend I longed to have

A Christian Girl's Guide to Cultivating Enduring Friendships. Today I’m spilling my all-time, number-one, best-of-the-best secret to building friendships with other women that last. But first, a confession… | Best Friends | Friendship Advice | Healthy Friendships | Christian Friendships

How To Prepare Your Heart for Friendship

Preparing your heart for friendship is eerily similar to preparing for a long road-trip.

First, you must make sure your heart is in tip-top shape and your tank is full of gas.  Jesus is the only one who can heal our hearts and fill our tanks! He supplies all of our needs so that we can selflessly serve our friends without expecting anything in return.

Second, you need to plan your route and schedule lots of pit stops along the way.  Friendship is exhausting and there are no shortcuts. Make sure you are prepared for the construction zones and detours that will inevitably waste gas and cause delays.

Third, when planning a family road-trip, it’s best to lower the expectations of your littlest passengers (because, inevitably, something will go wrong).  Unrealistic expectations are the most dangerous cargo we carry into our friendships.  Offload those unnecessary expectations before you back out of the driveway,  and you will be well on your way to cultivating enduring friendships.

Finally, the best road-trip memories are often made “on the road,” not “at the destination.” Even though your heart craves the intimacy that only the truest friendships can provide, it’s important to enjoy the journey and recognize that very few friendships  make it to The Magic Kingdom. If you fail to enjoy the journey, you will miss the beauty of the kind of friendships that are only meant to last a season.

A Christian Girl's Guide to Cultivating Enduring Friendships. Today I’m spilling my all-time, number-one, best-of-the-best secret to building friendships with other women that last. But first, a confession… | Best Friends | Friendship Advice | Healthy Friendships | Friendship Secrets

So, what’s the big secret?

I know you’ve been patiently waiting for my all-time, number-one, best-of-the-best secret to cultivating enduring friendships.

So here it is…

Jesus Christ is the only friend who is capable of meeting all of our needs.  His love empowers us to love others, without expectation or reservation. And people love being around people who love them—unconditionally and unreservedly.

And that is the secret to lasting friendship!

After many failed attempts,  I finally reeled in a whopper of a best friend.

She refused to let me stuff her and mount her on my wall, and in the process taught me that the best friends are the ones you catch and release.

I love her with all my might, but I know that she is not mine to keep. 

I will treasure her for as long as God allows us to swim side-by-side in the school of life.

Do you have any friendship secrets to share? I’d love to hear your best tips in the comments.

This article has been shared at my favorite Faith & Family Linkups.

Today’s blog post was inspired by Lisa-Jo Baker’s new book Never Unfriended.  If you’ve been burned by friendship more times than you can remember, this book is for you. If you feel like Wile E. Coyote and friendship is your Road Runner, this book is for you. If you want to learn how to be the kind of person capable of cultivating enduring friendships, this book is for you.

Lisa-Jo’s unpretentious manner and humorous antics immediately put readers at ease.  Her writing style is casual and comforting, like a warm cup of cocoa topped with whipped cream.  If I could sum this book up in one sentence, I would say it’s the golden rule empowered by the unconditional love of Jesus Christ.  He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother, who heals our wounds, and teaches us to love others with a selfless love. This kind of selfless love is the key to building successful and lasting friendships.  CLICK HERE to learn more {and download free sample chapters}.

A review copy of this book was provided by B&H Publishing in exchange for my review.  All opinions are my own.  Read my full disclosure here.

Sarah Koontz

About Sarah Koontz

  Sarah Koontz invites Christians of all ages to explore the beauty of God’s design. She is a passionate storyteller who enjoys using illustrations to communicate deep spiritual truths. Sarah lives on 13-acres in South Dakota with her husband, two daughters and a rowdy flock of 30 chickens. She revels in their simple, uncluttered life. Follow Sarah on FacebookInstagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Read Sarah's full Bio Here.

55 thoughts on “My #1 Secret for Cultivating Enduring Friendships {+Never Unfriended Book Review}

  1. What a lovely post! I especially like the part that “Jesus is the only friend capable of meeting all our needs.” I, too, have struggled to find last friendships, though my biggest struggle hasn’t been with friends moving away, but rather with me being the only one taking the time to call, text or try to plan together time. I can’t say I’ve still found a friend that takes the time to call, text or plan together time without me trying first. However, I do have some special friends whom I really love doing life with. I hope that someday all my sowing will turn into reaping.

    1. Oh how I get what you are saying! I’ve always been the one to initiate friendship, and when I grow weary of taking the first step…it seems like all my hard work has been for naught. I think givers tend to attract takers. Takers aren’t bad people, it’s just their cup’s not full enough to share…because they are dying of thirst themselves. Praying God brings a giver into your life very soon.

    1. Hi Angela, thanks for swinging by. Yes, I’m the queen of unrealistic expectations! It has become a heavy burden to bare as of late, and I’m ready to leave it all at the foot of the cross.

  2. I’ve heard so many good things about this book. A definite wish on my list! An enduring friendship takes a mix of give and take. Sometimes we get stuck on either side of that. Either being the one in control always “needing” to give. And other times we get stuck taking too much. Finding the balance and recognizing that in different seasons of life we may lean more to one way than the other because of where God has us. Great post, Sarah! So many nuggets of truth here!
    Blessings and smiles,
    Lori

    1. LOL. It does seem that everyone is talking about it, guess that’s a sign of a well-thought-out book launch strategy! It’s been a joy to participate in the launch, and get to know Lisa Jo a bit better. Her writing style took me a while to get used to, but the material/concepts are top notch.

  3. Love this! With many moves and transitions, I’ve struggled with cultivating friendships that truly last. I will always love my long-distance friends, but right now I am longing for the deep and intimate friendships! Thank you for this encouragement 🙂

    1. Moves are the toughest. I have many military friends, and we’ve had dozens of conversations about this. One friend was especially introverted. It took her about 2 years to settle in and finally feel at home (and then 6 month’s later she’d be packing up to move to the next assignment). She really had to practice putting herself out there right away and overcoming her fears. I’m so amazed by women who can move successfully, as I’m a homegrown girl with deep roots in my hometown (and no plans to leave any time soon).

  4. I have not read Lisa Jo-Baker’s book on friendship but have only recently heard of it through Christine Fleming Hoover who just wrote a book called Messy Beautiful Friendship. I am on the launch team for the book. This book was also very encouraging and empowering.

  5. This is so so so good! Is this not a chronic problem? We either struggle to find and sustain beautiful friendships OR we refuse to release unhealthy ones!! I loved the gentle tip of the hat to learning boundaries AND the clear suggestion that healing the past baggage lends itself to lasting current and future relationships!

    1. Amen! When we allow Christ’s love to flow through us we become a friendship magnet. Then we’ve just got to make sure to keep filling ourselves up at the cross, so we have strength to continue to love selflessly.

  6. This is so good! I’m in a season of my life right now where I’ve all but given up on finding close friendships. But you’ve given me hope today. <3

    1. Oh, Kathryn. I do hope you never give up. Friendships are truly a gift. Even if they aren’t deep or lasting, they are still worth it.

      I think the idea of lowering my expectations has helped me more than anything. It’s also been good to realize that…hey, she needs friends too! You know what I mean? Purposely shifting my focus off of my insecurities and onto the fact that everybody needs someone who loves them and who helps carry their burdens.

      It’s sad when all of your friendships feel like ministry or sacrifice. I get it, I’ve been there. But it’s also beautiful to be strong enough to offer the gift of friendship without expecting anything in return. Something I would have never experienced if I always had good friends.

  7. So great, Sarah! Wonderful advice… and I’m so glad that first and foremost, that as a child of God, we are “Never Unfriended” by Jesus and that through Him we can cultivate lasting relationships here on earth as well.

  8. I’m so intrigued by the book Unfriended! It sounds so good, and I love Lisa Jo Baker. I enjoyed your thoughts on friendship here, Sarah. It’s a topic close to my heart. I have several lifetime friends from my college years although we only see each other about once every two years and talk on the phone sometimes. Also a 14 year “sister” relationship. I love your point about low expectations because sometimes I realize mine are too high! Also that people love being around those who love them unconditionally. <3

    1. I truly think you would enjoy the book, Betsy. Especially if you are familiar with Lisa Jo’s writing. She covers many of the themes I addressed in this article from her own unique point of view.

  9. This was relieving to read…that someone else has struggled to keep friendships. My parents moved around a lot when I was younger so I never had a best friend. If I did, I was always let down and ended up being hurt. It’s the same now as an adult. My hubby is my best friend, but I don’t have a female close friend, probably because of the hurt in my past. It’s encouraging that we do have one true friend…Jesus Christ…and He will NEVER let us down, despite who we are, what we do and what we go through. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Hey Sarah! I appreciate your perspective on cultivating friendships. I particularly love what you said about simply enjoying the journey because not all friendships make it to Disney World. I do have one, true Bestie. She’s been a lifer since college. I sometimes wonder how I get another like her. Lol! Oh well, I guess if I have one seriously, incredible close friend, I’ve got plenty.

    Blessings to you!
    Tiffiney

    1. I guess friendship is a lot like Pringles…we always want just one more, don’t we Tiffiney? Unfortunately, Pringles have gluten in them, so I’ve slowly learned how to live the Pringle-less lifestyle. Gosh, I wish I could eat Pringles sometimes. What were we talking about again?

  11. Sarah, I must admit that I run alongside of you with the no friendship life. Yes, acquaintances who I cared about, but a lasting friend seemed beyond my reach. Right now, my husband is my best friend, and by the love of Jesus, I have become a friend, and can actually say I have a “girlfriend” for the first time in years. I am 69 and she is in her late 40s. Had Jesus not entered my heart, I would still be without. Thank you for sharing the word-picture. I love it!! I am ready for Disneyland!! Wanna go?

    1. Oh, yes. I love Disneyland! The more the merrier. My mom always told me eventually I would find a “forever friend,” someone who loves me for me, who doesn’t judge me, and isn’t jealous of me. She always believed I would, and her belief got me through many lonely years. I’m so happy you’ve found a girlfriend to walk alongside you, what a treasure!

  12. Hi Sarah,

    I have a “Treasure Trove” full of friends – and you are one of them! I loved your post! I often think too of Jesus – while He touched many lives, he only had a few close enduring friendships… and, while he had 12 disciples, even from that group, he had three who were closest. As friendships come and go, I think you are amazing. Keep it coming!

  13. Sarah- this is so timely! We moved 3 1/2 years ago and I thought I had found my best friend here, but over time we are just too different. I yearn for the person that stands with me through everything.
    My husband is my best friend, but yet I’d love a female best friend that just gets me. She doesn’t compete with me, hurt me or use me when she needs me.
    I just desire a friend that journeys with me.
    Lovely post! And I’m hopeful she’s out there 🙂

    1. Oh that stinks, Julie. I’ve had that happen to me a few times in the past also. Don’t you love the support and encouragement we get in the Christian blogging community though? It’s not quite the same, but I sure have enjoyed the lovely Christian women I’ve met along the way (you among them).

      I am saying a prayer that God brings an uncommon friend into your life very soon.

  14. Sarah, I sat slack-jawed reading the beginning of this post, and except for not having gone to college, it was as if I was reading about me! In a way, I guess I thought I was the only one that had so many “seasonal friends” with the best ones always moving far away.

    I am definitely probably at one of my loneliest times as far as lack of friendships. Without any defining moment, the two good friends I have, have done the slow fade, and not because anything is wrong with the relationship, but because life is pulling us in different directions.

    Your insight for keeping enduring friendships was so encouraging. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Karen,

      The longer I write, the more I realize that we are never alone in our struggles. Unfortunately, we live in a society that encourages us to hide our flaws and insecurities, and I think that has severely damaged our ability to do life together.

      I am so sorry you are lonely. It’s difficult to live with that ache day in and day out, isn’t it? I think I spent 3 years just trying to be the very best friend I could be to the people God brought into my life without seeing much fruit at all. I mean, they were nice people and we had fun together, but they never really got to know the real me (beneath the surface, the person who doesn’t have it all together, and who isn’t superwoman).

      And then I stumbled on someone who did. I don’t think I would have ever found her if I hadn’t gone through those difficult years first and learned how to be a good friend when no one seemed to want to return the favor. I am praying that God blesses you with someone like my whopper of a bestie. She is the best gift I’ve ever received.

  15. Jesus Christ is the only friend who is capable of meeting all of our needs. His love empowers us to love others, without expectation or reservation.

    I’ve been really thinking about the friendships I’ve had with many over my past 30 years. Some failed, some thrived, I’m so glad to know my Saviour is there to fulfill all my needs! Thank you for a lovely and interesting post!

    1. It is so nice to have the comfort of Jesus in the midst of all our friendship travels. He lightens the load when we are burden, and gives us courage to try again when we are burned.

  16. I love the analogy of which vehicle can make the journey. Many years ago I was where you were. I too cried out to God in desperation and then he prepared me for the friendships he brought into my life. I think my recognition of that need made me handle all my friendships like a gift – a much needed well-deserved gift. That was my only expectation going in. I have been blessed with great friendships in my life – doesn’t matter if we are geographically close or not – we have shared and share something special. But I always remember that place, that vehicle, I started in.

    1. I’ll never forget that old rusty vehicle I used to be. So glad for God’s rehaul on my heart and life, and I too treat friendships like a gift rather than an entitlement.

  17. Thank you for writing this, Sarah. I, too, have had many best friends move away through the years. It’s definitely sad – and hard to start over in that process. And it takes so long! But your post inspired me and made me feel so much better! And even everyone’s comments too. I’m definitely reading Lisa Jo’s book! Thanks so much for sharing your life.

    1. Alyson, I’m so happy to know this article was an encouragement to you. You’ll enjoy Lisa Jo’s book. I also encourage you to look into the Craving Connection book released by InCourage and BH Publishing earlier this year. It’s full of tons of encouraging stories and lots of simple friendship challenges. I really enjoyed reading it. If you search my blog for it, you will find my full review.

  18. Sarah,
    Thank you so much for the reminder. I too struggled with friends moving away. Recently my boyfriend/best friend abruptly and unexpectedly ended our relationship and three weeks later my mother passed away after a long battle with ovarian cancer. Christmas was not a great time this year. I have been counseling with my pastor and reading a few of Holley Gerth’s books because it is my relationship with myself and the Lord that is struggling the most. I have a difficult time cultivating Joy outside of my circumstances. Because I have a very small and distant family, friendships are very important to me but have been elusive and fleeting.

    I recently started my own blog about positivity and relationships with all the people in our lives. As I go in search of my “tribe” of like minded bloggers I have not been able to find too many in my niche or my area. Glad to find someone one state over (Hello from Montana) that is a refreshing source of positive hints and tips. God Bless and Have an Amazing Day.

    1. Loss comes in violent waves sometimes, doesn’t it Deanna. I am so sorry to hear about your struggles, but equally grateful to hear about the wonderful choice you’ve made to get good counsel and fill that hole inside with God’s love.

      It took me a few years to really settle in to my blogging community. Nothing comes easily, it seems. I would just encourage you to be brave and be a good friend to the other bloggers you want to connect with (share their stuff, comment on their blogs, love on them). It’s amazing how kind and genuine many people are if we just take some time to invest in their lives.

      Oh, and visit my linkup page (link in my header) and start linking up when you write a new post. That is one of the BEST ways to find other blogger friends!

  19. Hits home here. I feel like I haven’t had that true “best friend” since high school. I had a few that came close in my twenties, but a move at 30 changed things. And you are right, staying connected on Facebook just isn’t the same. In my decade of living in Arizona, friends have come and gone, and I’ve never felt like I’ve truly connected to just one other female the way I want to. And now I’m at a new church and feel like I’m starting all over again.

    Thanks for always sharing from your heart at Literacy Musing Mondays and for relating to all of us women bloggers!

    1. Hi Brandi, new beginnings are a bugger aren’t they? I was recently telling my hubby how my blogging life has started to satisfy at least a portion of my craving for connection. I’ve found many beautiful friendships since I started blogging, and I’m grateful for a few people who “get me.” But if I’m being honest, I think it’s time for me to re-focus on my local community a bit more. The best way to kick start things is invite, invite, invite! Summer is such a great time to invite “new friends” to the park, to bbq, to swim, to the library. Praying you have a fun, friend-filled summer.

  20. All of this can be applied to any love relationship. Without a doubt, my expectations and unmet needs/wounds have been the reason behind any failed relationship -friends, family or romance. I’ve found what you say is true….only Jesus can be “that” for me -not people.

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