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4 Practices to Keep You from Drifting into Isolation


Our family loves to vacation at Lake Michigan. Nothing better than a giant sandbox to keep our kids entertained for days! One of our 4-year-olds recently discovered his love for not just the sand, but the water as well. He puts his floatie on, and he lays back, content to just sit there and float. But after a few minutes go by, we’ll look up and realize he’s been carried down the shoreline.

Currents unavoidably pull us down the shoreline unless we swim against them. Our son didn’t see it and didn’t even notice he was in one.

Our culture also has currents. And the currents of our culture invisibly move us all toward something. Relationships in our culture are hard to keep, hard to maintain, and if we’re honest, we sometimes look up and realize we’ve drifted into an isolation we weren’t prepared for.

So, if we want to be people that keep relationships, we have to reject the drift and put practices into place that help us to swim against the current.

1. Practice of Devotion: Commitment v. Convenience

Our culture values convenience. We’re willing to pay more for the easy thing, the thing that saves us time and requires less of our energy and effort. Looking at you, $10 Smoothie King order. (Guilty.) But convenience is not always a good thing in relationships.

Sure, we all love having friendships that are fun, lifegiving, and easy. But what about when that friend says something that hurts us? Or when your spouse just can’t seem to figure out how to communicate? Or when you have a health crisis, or you lose your job, and your life gets harder and your time is minimal?

That’s when commitment comes in. Commitment requires effort—sometimes a lot of it—and it anchors us to people when it gets hard.

Check out how Acts 2:42 describes community in the early church:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Among other things, God’s people were devoted to each other – to the fellowship, to eating meals together, to praying together, to being together.

So, tether yourself to a larger community and to a few people. Build practices into your life to make time with others and give you commitment when it’s not always convenient. Here’re a few to try:

  • Weekly church attendance
  • Weekly Sunday morning class, like Twenties Connect or Crossing Students
  • Weekly small group
  • Weekly one-hour conversation with the same friend
  • Monthly guys or gals night
  • Yearly trip with a few close friends

2. Practice of Looking Outward: Giving v. Receiving

“How can this person make me look good?”
“How can this person serve me? Help me?”
“What kind of status or connection can I get out of this relationship?”
“How do they make me look if I hang out with them?”
“How funny is this person?”
“How good of a time am I going to have if they’re my friend?”

In our Western, individualized world, it’s normal to think about yourself a lot. We’re the center of our own lives – or so we like to think.

But I think Jesus calls us to flip this narrative and ask, “What can I give to others?” rather than, “What can I get from them?”

Jesus says this about friendship in John 15:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
John 15: 12-13

The ultimate friendship principle is modeled by Jesus. He says to us: I have loved you so much that I was willing to die for you, to give you life. To give you my life. We are to love the same way. How can I serve others? What can I give to them?

And remarkably, Scripture tells us that we’ll actually be more satisfied (not less!) if we live this way:

Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.
Proverbs 11:25

The saying that it’s better to give than to receive is really true. We will be more fulfilled if, when we walk into a room, we think, “There you are,” rather than, “Here I am.”

3. Practice of Forgiveness: Assuming the Best v. Easily Offended

We all know we live in “cancel culture” right now. But when it comes to our friendships, we need to give it a minute.

People who are easily offended:

  • Frequently complain
  • Assume malicious intent
  • Are always the victim
  • Are insecure
  • Are self-centered/narcissistic
  • Are impatient and/or angry
  • Hold grudges
  • Have low self-awareness

According to Brene Brown, assuming the best about others is a skillset. That’s encouraging because it means assuming the best can be learned and practiced.

So when a friend doesn’t text you back right away, you can choose to assume that you’re really not as good of friends as you’d thought, or you can be quick to forgive and choose to assume the best: maybe her day was crazy and she looked at that text, then forgot to respond (like I do most of the time myself!).

4. Practice of Enduring: Bearing With Others vs. Cutting Others Out

Paul gets even further away from cancel culture when he writes in 1 Corinthians 13:7: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

To be in relationship with others means helping to carry their burdens. Enduring with them through their shortcomings and failures and when they’re struggling emotionally, mentally, or physically. We repair relationships when we stay in the hurt rather than run from it. We walk with them beside the pain and look with them hopefully toward the future.

Paul does say in Romans 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Note he says, “if possible.” He recognizes that there might be a time when it’s not always possible to live at peace with everyone, even when a huge effort is made. So, I’m not saying there’s never a time to end a friendship. But these practices above should be the norm in the life of the church.

God’s people should be known for being people who keep their relationships, even when it’s inconvenient at best and an arduous slog at worst. In doing so, we show the world what a life being loved by Jesus looks like. And that this kind of love, a love that resists the drift into isolation (and pulls others out of the current, too), is a love we all long for.

Don't drift away! Read about the importance of deep, Christian relationships and how to build them.