Several weeks ago a friend visited my desk to chat when she noticed a small square paper hanging on my cubicle wall. She asked what it said and leaned in closer to read it. The quote was about staying open to the change God wants to do in our lives.
An uncomfortable look formed on her face and she said something about how HR doesn’t allow religion in the workplace. I wasn’t sure if she was kidding or serious, so I asked if it offended her. She said, “Well, it’s definitely weird.”
I’ve noticed a difference in some friendships since dedicating my life fully to God. At times it comes in the form of mocking, especially after sharing a great story that feels highly inspiring, but it also comes in the form of rejection.
At first this new dynamic was hard to swallow; it felt like I was being torn between two worlds. It was great getting invites to dinner or drinks with friends, and yet I had so many exciting changes happening in my life that I wanted to share. It seemed clear that the topic was odd and perhaps a little unbelievable.
On one particularly hard day, I drove home feeling like a total outcast. I asked God how to bridge the gap between faith and friends and prayed for his continued guidance. I started fiddling around with radio stations and actually found a sermon about spiritual suffering. During it the priest mentioned that suffering for our faith comes with our continued growth. My discouragement gradually changed to encouragement.
When we draw closer to God, we can end up suffering on many levels–physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually–but suffering in the name of Jesus is a high compliment. In fact, Scripture says, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1Peter 4:14).
This isn’t to say it feels good to lose friends or see some friendships weaken. It isn’t to say that we should want or seek persecution or that it will even happen to us all. But it does test our character, endurance and sincere attempt to live by faith.
Evil will do all it can to work through situations and people to cause us to doubt or even abandon our paths. By understanding that we have to lose our life to gain it (even if that means a certain type of social life or “worldly” standard of living), we embrace the totality of the life God gave us to live, the one with doors waiting to open and miracles waiting to happen.
And losing friends doesn’t mean forever. Differences challenge us, but the challenge is a good one. It’s during the tough times that we discover what we’re made of, especially when we endure them while remaining respectful and kind to others. (A sign of spiritual maturity!)
Update from 2017:
This remains one of my favorite posts because I still remember how lonely this time felt. But rest assured that it ends. And there’s something you can do in the meantime… One Day I Prayed for Friends and This is What Happened