Sometimes we just need a friend, someone who sees us, really sees us, and steps in to help, support, and encourage. And sometimes we need to be that friend, seeing others, stepping in to help, support, and encourage.
But what happens when we give and give and give and our efforts aren’t reciprocated?
That hurts, deeply, because as humans, we assign all sorts of meaning to the lack of aid. Meaning like:
Maybe our friends don’t truly care. Maybe they’re just using us for their convenience and comfort.
And because we are sinful, selfish people living in a sinful, self-centered world, that could very well be true. So, how do we find refreshment when those we care about are sucking us dry?
Our family has moved. A lot. With moving comes loneliness. Isolation. Grieving and rebuilding.
About five years ago, after a rough patch that included three moves in under a year, we landed in a small town twenty minutes from Kansas City. At the time, we homeschooled, and in need of social interaction, our daughter and I joined every homeschool coop and support group we could find. Our family also embarked on a long and discouraging search for a church home, made all the more difficult due to the two wonderful churches, one in Southern California and the other in Bossier City, LA, we had left. You may have heard it said, to embrace the new, you have to release the old. Only I wasn’t ready. I wanted to find our old church in our new town.
So, here we were, stuck in a small town, no family around, and spending long hours camped out in the living room with school books scattered around us.
Did I mention we were lonely?
Being an old hand at this moving thing, I did what I’d done in every other state we’d resided: I got involved and focused on being the friend I wanted to have. Proverbs 11:25 became very important to me:
“The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25 NLT).
Only, the verse didn’t seem to work. Not this time. In fact, the more our family gave–helping folks move, build decks, teaching and watching their children–the more others asked of us. But when we needed help or even a friend to share those long, lonely afternoons, those same folks dissappeared.
I grew hurt, then angry. Why, Lord, wasn’t I being refreshed? How long would we be lonely? How long would my daughter be lonely? (Few things can break a mother’s heart like watching your child’s heart break.)
It wasn’t fair!
Then, as if in answer, I remembered our time in Louisiana. Two women in particular came to mind. Both of them purposefully, lovingly, and persistently came along beside me at a time when I really need a friend. In amazing, extremely sacrificial ways.
For example, when moving vans came to transport our belongings from storage lockers to the midwest, one of these precious women showed up at seven am to take our daughter for a day of play. This woman lived 30 minutes away from our storage locker. From pick up to drop off, that was two hours of total driving.
I’d never asked for her help. She just showed up.
Because she did, instead of my daughter waiting in the extreme heat for six plus hours (storage lockers don’t have air conditioning), she got to enjoy some time with some very sweet and loving friends.
As I thought back on these events, I realized, the refreshment God offers isn’t always a give-and-take. Sometimes we give and give and give to someone who is either incapable or uninterested in reciprocating.
And ultimately, our refreshing comes from God. Because He’s still sovereign, even when we’re lonely. I’ve learned when those times come, the best thing I can do is draw ever closer to Him, seeking comfort in Him and Him alone, asking what He’d have me learn from the experience.
Because as cliché as it sounds, it’s true–God never, ever wastes a tear, and through every heartbreak or struggle He allows, He’s working things out for good.
Let’s talk about this! Where are you today? Do you feel as if you’re giving and giving and giving but receiving little, maybe not even a thank you, in return? When that happens, it’s easy to focus on the taker. But that only leads to bitterness and anger. Rather, we must focus on the ultimate Giver, the One who gave us those words in Proverbs, trusting His loving sovereignty as we patiently wait for those springs of refreshment to come.
When you face one-sided friendships, what are some things you do to gaurd your heart and mind from the toxins of bitterness? We’ve all heard it said that Jesus alone can meet all our needs, but what does that look like in the day-to-day? Have you ever been on the receiving end? Perhaps in a place, emotionally, financially, or mentally, where you had nothing to give and were in need of a great deal of support? If so, did God send people to come alongside you? Tell us about what that time, that aid, meant to you. You can share your comments here or at Living by Grace on Facebook.
Now, to announce the winner of last week’s book give-away! Mary Preston, congrats! You won a copy of Laura Jackson’s Worth the Wait. I’l;l be contacting you soon to discuss the best way to get this book to you.
And before you go, check out my article on finding marital intimacy on Internet Cafe’ Devotions, my post on imperfect memory making on Faith-filled Friends, and my thoughts on finding and holding on to deep and lasting love on Inspy Romance.
Other resources you might find helpful:
Beyond Me by Kathi Maccias