By Pr. Rhoda Klein Miller
How many close friends do you have? People you can let your guard down with. People you trust to challenge you, hold you accountable to goals, encourage and support you when you need it. Everyone should have one or two “besties” but the Covid pandemic seems to have tripled the number of people claiming they do not have at least one close friend. This is concerning because our mental and physical wellbeing are impacted by loneliness and places one at higher risk for depression, heart disease and stroke. Based on her research Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience concluded that loneliness is as harmful to physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Dr. Holt-Lunstad wants people to take this seriously and invest in a few close friendships, “just like we follow recommendations for the amount of sleep we get and how physically active we are, for relevant health benefits.”
But be judicious. Spending time with people who are unreliable, negative or competitive can be bad for your health.
Dr Marisa Franco a psychologist and author encourages larger and diverse friend groups for personal growth as “different people bring out different parts of us.” But making friends in adulthood isn’t easy with time crunched schedules and our reluctance to trust new people.
It requires initiative and intentionality.
By looking at Jesus friendship with the 12 disciples we find the ultimate example of how to develop and maintain close relationships. This tight-knit community of believers supported each other, learned from each other, and were united in mission as they worked together to spread the message of God’s love. These close bonds would lend resilience to their faith when trials and difficulties arose.
This example of close-knit community is just as important today as it was in Jesus’ time. There are even more factors causing us to feel alone and adrift. By joining a small group, we can find the kind of supportive community Jesus modelled for us. A small group provides a welcoming and intimate space to deepen your faith and learn from others who are on the same journey. In a group setting, you gain broader insights into the teachings of the Bible, share your own experiences, and find the kind of spiritual support that can be so hard to come by in our busy world. By gathering together regularly with other believers, you can form the kind of deep, meaningful relationships that will sustain you through life’s ups and downs. You can learn from each other’s struggles and triumphs, support each other through difficult times, and grow together in your faith.
Participating in a small group is not just a way to deepen your spiritual life; it’s a way to follow Jesus’ example and build the kind of close-knit community that we all need in order to thrive. Consider joining one of our LOVE DOES small groups. You’ll be amazed at the ways in which it can transform your life.