Made for Friendship: Drew Hunter
Isn't friendship kind of…optional? Author Drew Hunter proposes a solution to the nationwide epidemic of loneliness. He digs into the scriptural plea for authentic friendship, and how, exactly, to make friendships you can't live without.
We are in some ways the most connected generation ever—social media and the internet, and ways of connecting over text messages and phone calls. I mean, never have people been able to connect this quickly with this many people, and yet we are the most disconnected generation as well. -- Drew Hunter
About the Guest
- Connect with Drew Hunter and read his article "7 Tips on being a good friend" and listen to the "4 steps on cultivating true friendship".
- And grab his book, "Made for Friendship" in our shop.
- Intrigued by today's episode? Think deeper about friendship in these episodes with Kelly Needham.
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Is friendship optional? Author Drew Hunter digs into the scriptural plea for real friendship, and how, exactly, to make friendships you can’t live without.
Made for Friendship: Drew Hunter
Drew: We are in some ways the most connected generation ever—social media and the internet, and ways of connecting over text messages and phone calls. I mean, never have people been able to connect this quickly with this many people, and yet we are the most disconnected generation as well.
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Did you have a best friend growing up?
Dave: I knew you were going to ask me that and I literally thought the first thing came to my mind, Marty Jordan.
Ann: You've had so many friends. You always have a friend. You didn't have a best friend.
Dave: Well, I mean, I was in New Jersey, and then Mom and Dad divorced and ended up in Ohio. Marty Jordan was one of my best friends all the way through college, and then he passed. You don't even know Marty.
Ann: I met him.
Dave: I know that his mom listens. I've gotten, like, direct messages every once in a while, from his mom.
Ann: I feel like you're unusual in that you've always had really good friends. My dad and my brothers—I have two brothers and my dad—they were really good friends with one another, but they really didn't have many friends. I thought you were really unique because you had so many male friends.
Dave: I do remember when Jim, your brother's son, came up for a while, like a week and stayed with us in Michigan. Remember what he said?
Dave: He goes, “You have guys coming over like every other day. I've never seen anything quite like that.”
Ann: Yes, “People are walking in the door all the time. What's going on?”
Dave: [Laughter] And I love that so today we're talking about friendship. Obviously, we've got Drew Hunter in the studio. The—I guess you're the expert on friendship.
Drew: I don't know if I'd call myself an expert, [Laughter] but I've thought about it a lot and care about it a lot and want to help other people think and care about it.
Dave: Well, I mean, you've done a lot of thinking on a topic a lot of people don't do a lot of thinking on. Your book is called Made for Friendship: The Relationship That Halves Our Sorrows and Doubles Our Joy. So I'll ask you what Ann just asked me. Did you have a best friend growing up?
Drew: I did, although I think as you were talking, I was thinking about two that we're probably both my best friends, so Derek and Brett. I grew up in Northern Illinois when I was younger, and they were in my neighborhood. We had a lot of woods around us, so we just spent a lot of time growing up as friends and there's some just goofy pictures of us and so yes.
Dave: How about today?
Drew: I've kind of, I think if I was to say one person was my best friend it’d be my brother Trent who's become closest friend, but I have, I kind of intentionally don't think about someone as a best friend. I've several that are close and just, at least for me, I don't want to pick one over others. I have several that I'm really close to and we have unique relationships with.
Ann: When you say that as a woman, you're afraid that it's going to hurt your other friends’ feelings so—
Ann: Well, Drew, you're married, and you have four sons. You're a pastor. Let me ask you.
Dave: I think it's pretty quiet right here for you right now. [Laughter]
Drew: Very quiet.
Dave: I'm guessing your house isn't quiet like this.
Drew: Yes, this is different.
Ann: Share the ages of your boys.
Drew: Sure; twelve, eleven, ten and six.
Ann: Three in a row. Three years in a row. You had a baby. Your wife. You guys should get some—
Dave: You need friends.
Ann: —applause. [Laughter] You need friends.
Drew: In fact, I think my six-year-old just turned seven and I got the age wrong. [Laughter] My wife is probably—
Dave: I do that all the time. Is she going to correct you?
Drew: There’s so many.
Ann: There's so many. [Laughter]
Dave: There’s so many running around.
Ann: But is that important? Do you want your sons to have friends?
Drew: Yes. Yes, we talk about that a lot, about choosing friends wisely. We talk about kids at school. We want them to have a mindset that they're friendly with everyone so there's not going to be a sense of, “Well you're not my friend, therefore I shouldn't care about you.” But it takes a lot of wisdom to pick your friends well, because you become like your friends. We see that happening in their life already and so we want them to have good friends, to be good friends, and to think about that growing up,
Ann: Why did you write about this?
Drew: A few reasons, so when I first started thinking about the topic, it was about probably 12 or 13 years ago now, and I was teaching through Proverbs. I sat down with the book of Proverbs and just would read through it and collect themes. I just wanted to say, what are the most prominent themes in Proverbs? I'll collect what Proverbs says about it and teach on those themes.
I was not expecting friendship to be part of the list. I was expecting money, words, right, from reading through Proverbs over the years, but I had just not seen just how significant friendship was in particular. So even relationships; I was thinking about loving people, loving your neighbor, marriage relationships, those kinds of things but I was struck by how many very specific and striking things Proverbs said about friendship.
I started to study it, and then as I was studying that week, it drew me to John 15, where Jesus calls His disciples friends. And I just realized, “My goodness, I have, I've read this who knows how many times, so I have a category for it at some level, but I have not really taken this as seriously and internalized this as I should. So that week was really pivotal for me.
And then after that, I just kept thinking about friendship. I had friends growing up through my life. I valued friendships, but I realized I've not really thought about it or thought about it deeply or much at all. I think that week I realized, like, “I've never spent five straight minutes thinking intentionally about this.” [Laughter] I've read books about marriage and parenting now, but never read anything on friendship, never had conversations or heard lectures or sermons directly on friendship.
I started talking to people about this and realized their experience was the same and that we all really value friendship, but we realized after thinking about—I had one friend who said to me—I was talking about this and after we started talking for a few minutes, he said, “I'm a really lousy friend,” and that's common. I disagreed with him because he's one of my friends; he’s a great friend. But we do realize that without intentionality, there are gaps in our lives here.
So those are a few things. And then over time, why it ended up being a book is because just noticing that there really weren't, at the time, many resources at all from a biblical, Christian perspective on friendship. It seemed to be lacking and then we're in, and we continue to be in, a steep decline in just experiencing friendship. Plenty of studies show that, so all those things came together to create the need for this book.
Ann: I've talked to so many wives and we'll talk about our friendship, and we'll talk about our husband's friendship. I can't tell you how many wives say, “My husband says he doesn't need any friends, and I'm his only friend and I'm the only friend that he needs.” Have you heard that before, Dave?
Dave: Yes, we were talking earlier that 30 years of preaching I bet I did a message or two a year on friendship or community and, you know, sort of made for friendship, made for community. I remember a stat—I tried to find it years ago—that there was a study done of American men and if I'm remembering it right, it said nine out of ten American men say they do not have one true friend.
Dave: They have a lot of acquaintances, work buddies. It's interesting, the study went on to say when they were boys, they had friends, but as they grew into men and got involved in their lives and marriages and things, it's not something the average American guy—I don't know if it compares to other men around the world, but in America we go, but often don't have a real, what we call real friendship. Did you find that as well?
Drew: Yes. In fact, I remember someone making a joke at one point when I was talking about friendship. He said, “Yes, we have this newly found miracle of Jesus. He had twelve close friends in his 30s.”
Drew: Because it's just so rare. We have it early in life. If you go to college, college can often be a pressure cooker for friendship because you have so many overlapping spheres of life where the people you go to church with or in ministry with or have class with, or where you live. They overlap and then we get out of college and then we move around and there's so many factors that lead to it, but we end up friendless.
A lot of studies are showing those kinds of statistics where they'll just study it, interview a lot of people and find out that—you know Cigna Health Insurance did a study a number of years ago, and they found that half of people would say that their relationships aren't really meaningful to them, and something like 40 percent said that no one really knows them at all. Which is another way of saying they don't actually have a friend, right—
Ann: That’s so sad.
Drew: —or even a family member they consider that closely, so 40 percent are saying candidly, “No one really knows me.”
Ann: So why is it important? Like teach us. You've done all this study and I think wives are like, this is important, and I want my husband to hear it. Why—
Dave: Wait, wait, wait, why are we talking just about my husband to hear it. You don't think women need to hear it as well?
Ann: Yes, I think we do too. And I think women are lonelier than they have been in the past, too, and we all get so busy that our—you know we're taking care—you guys know. We're taking care of our kids. We're going to church. We're in our jobs and we think like “Do we have enough time for friends?” I'm just talking about the women that I know and talk to. They feel bad for their husband, so I'm going to hit the husbands.
Dave: Okay, hit the husbands.
Drew: Yes, it certainly is an issue for both genders and in different ages and spheres of life. There's a lot of angles that you can look at friendship to see our need for it. If you just start at the page one of the Bible, you see our need for it. God creates this wonder world, and He fills, He creates these different realms of sky, land, sea; fills it with communal life; gets to the sixth day and creates humanity. He makes humanity in His image and then they're called to go fill the world with communal fruitful life and joy. That's the commission for Adam and Eve to do, to fill the world with human society and friendship.
But what's interesting in those first pages of the Bible is that God says He makes humanity in His own image. And He speaks of Himself in the plural. “Let us make man in our image.” Now we don't explicitly see the Trinity there, but we see that God is a plurality and doesn't take long reading the Bible we find out Father, Son, and Spirit have made humanity in the image then of a triune God. So before there was creation or any men or women, there was God: Father, Son, and Spirit as an eternal fellowship of love.
Richard Sibbes, Puritan, put it this way. He said that God has a spreading goodness, so He spreads His goodness, which means He didn't create anything because He had a lack or a need, but because He wanted to share the fullness of His life and blessing. So He creates humanity in His image. The image of a communal God, not because He needed us, but because He wanted to bless us. And one of the blessings is to be made in the image of a God who loves fellowship and community. This triune God of love and so humanity is made with this need to experience the fullness of joy in community with God and with one another.
We see that just on page one, and then even in chapter two. Chapter two rewinds into the sixth day of creation to talk about how that actually happened so when you read the first story of creation in Genesis 1, you see that God made humanity, Adam and Eve, everything's very good. And then Genesis 2 rewinds into that day and then shows the process. He started with Adam, so He started just with one and then and he's not made yet. And so, He says to Adam, or says about Adam, “It is not good that man should be alone.”
Dave: One is the loneliest number.
Drew: That's right.
Dave: It’s that kind of concept.
Drew: Yes, and so what's so striking about that is that so far, we've just heard everything's good, good, good, very good. And then, now we rewind back into the sixth day and realize that there's a moment when something was not good.
Dave: Which is amazing, because Adam had God.
Drew: That's right.
Dave: So there's a relationship with the God of the universe, the Creator and He still says it's not good.
Drew: Yes, everything's perfect, everything's in harmony, creation. He knows God, and apparently from God's own sense of things and His observation and statement, it's not good for a human being to be in isolation from other human beings, and so He makes Eve, not just as a spouse but as a friend, and to create a world of friendship.
What's also interesting here is that Adam hasn't sinned yet, so here we have the first problem, if we can use that word. I mean there's not something wrong with what God's done. It's just not complete yet, right? But before sin entered the world, so the first problem in human history that God solves is that of companionship and friendship before sins even here. It's not good that man should be alone. So that's a strong statement for why we need friendship. We're made in the image of a God of love. We're made for friendship. God Himself says it's not good to be alone. And then, you know you can go from there and see all the problems that happen when we are alone.
Proverbs says that the one who isolates himself, breaks against, breaks out against all understanding and reason. We see what happens when people are put in solitary confinement. That's just a little picture of what we're all experiencing when we are lonely and isolated in life.
Dave: You know one of the things I've done every year is fast. What made me think of it is when you said eating with people is something you enjoy.
Dave: One of the hardest things about fasting is that goes away. I mean, I can sit at a table with people who are eating—and I'm really mad at them because they're eating and I'm not—but most of the time you don't sit down with people during that fast, which is obviously a different—you're doing a spiritual discipline. But I never thought of that when I first said “I'm going to fast;” that I'm going to miss community. And God has hardwired every human being to long for and need community.
Ann: That's why I was laughing, because I thought, “I love it when you fast, but I also hate it because like, ‘Oh, this is no fun. We can't eat together.’”
Drew: You know what's interesting about that is so when you fast from food, you end up appreciating food more, right?
Dave: Oh yes.
Drew: And appreciating people. I think God has made food partly for the sake of friendship and community. They can make a biblical case for that.
But what's interesting, too, is I was reading a book the past couple weeks on just the way that the digital world has influenced us and technology and social media and our addiction to our phones and all these things. I was really surprised about one part of his book where he talked about solitude being really important. It was actually important for friendship and community.
It was surprising because we wouldn't think that. It’s like we'll be around people, and he said actually we need solitude, and we don't have solitude anymore because our minds—and it's not just being alone, it's giving space for your minds to not be occupied doing something, even checking your phone, checking your mail, checking the news, checking social media. Our mind no longer has just opportunity to just relax and do what it does when it doesn't have things going on like it has for human history. He said when—and there's studies that show this about even what's going on in the brain—when your mind doesn't have a task to do, it defaults into using a part of your brain that thinks socially.
It's even measured in infants, so this is just hardwired. Our mind defaults to think about our relationships. And I thought that's so interesting because recently I'll go out on my deck and just sit there by myself on some evenings or make a fire.
Dave: Wait, wait, wait, you got four boys, and you get to sit on a deck by yourself?
Drew: It’s at like nine at night. [Laughter] It's already dark and I'm exhausted so I'll get it for a little bit. I make a fire and I start thinking about friendships and actually valuing them more. And that's the point in this book actually, is that it's our digital addictions are making friendships worse not just because we're spending time away from friends, kind of connecting in superficial ways, but because we don't have time for solitude, where we actually think about our relationships and value them more. I inevitably find myself calling a friend, or just thinking about my friends and valuing them when I am alone.
So there is a balance we need. And actually, solitude can help us engage with friends, not just being alone with our phone, but actually reflecting on life. And so perhaps one of our lacks of friendship in life is partly because we don't even have the space anymore in this culture to think about what's valuable, what's important in life, what do I want to spend my time doing?
Dave: It's interesting, since I left the pastorate, you know for thirty years, Ann has heard me say this, it's like, “Wow, I'm lonelier now than I've ever been.” And it's a sense that I don't go to a—like we used to go to the office every day and there's all these staff and people around, and you know the other side is like “I don't want to be around any of these people. They bug me and I bug them.” But you're around people every day.
Now we're in a world that's a little different; that a lot of what Ann and I do is alone. We have each other, which is awesome, but I'm not around as many men as I used to be. So how do you—like a guy like me or even—I mean you're in a different stage of life, so you're probably around people a lot. And you're sort of like I was, like, “I want to get away for the solitude.” But if you're if you're a person that doesn't have a lot of friendships, man or woman, how would you encourage them? How do you develop that?
Drew: Yes, there's a lot of things that you can do. One of the things is just making sure you do value it properly and just recognize this is a non-negotiable in life. So, seeing that you know work is important, family is important if you have one. Certainly, marriage should be your best friend, a best friendship, but not your only friendship. So just recognizing that you need to make it a non-negotiable and then building in space for it.
There's a lot of things you can do. I think one of the things you can do is schedule it. Just think about the non-negotiables in life. Everyone has them; eating for some people, exercising, reading the Bible and prayer, work, eating as a family. If those things are important, you build your life around them. You have predictable rhythms and times that you do them and so friendship I think should be just put into our calendars like that too.
There's a lot of ways you can do it. My wife and I will often have seasons where we just reserve one evening a week, like a Wednesday or Thursday, for we just put hospitality on our calendar and we're going to invite people over and spend time. We just have that reserved for people to be in our home either for dinner—although in our family, life is a bit crazier now, so we wait till a little bit later for dessert or drinks or something afterward. Or you can say lunch during my work week. I'm going to have lunch with this person every week. Or you just have it open and just with someone and you just know “On Mondays, I have lunch with a friend” and then you schedule it that way.
I have coffee every other week with a friend of mine at about 3:30 on Tuesdays right now. And that's where we spend time getting together throughout the weeks and have a lot of conversations in everyday life. But we've just made sure to reserve that time to make sure we're talking openly and honestly about struggles in life, challenges in life, things were encouraged about, confessing sin to one another, all of those things. So scheduling I think is a huge one. There's a lot of steps, but those would be a couple.
Dave: What about married couples? Do you think they need other married couples, as friends?
Drew: Yes. I think married, other married couples, yes. And even just the man having other friends that are men and the women having other friends that are women. I think both and, really important, so I know that some people get married—and I've heard plenty of stories where both people have friends who then get really hurt because they're just cut out of life because the couple gets married and then they put all of their friendship into that marriage and then other people are hurt by that.
And then, something happens down the road and the marriage ends for all sorts of reasons and eventually death as long—I mean it might be a sobering thought but unless the couple both, the Lord takes them at the same time, one of them is going to be unmarried again. And that's devastating if you have no other friends. It's not the way it was supposed to be. We're supposed to enjoy rich friendship. I think even having other friends, both couples and even just men having other men as friends and women, having other women as friends, strengthens the marriage.
Christina and I have a stronger marriage because we also have our friendships that we even free each other up for. Because I'm a better man and a better husband, a better father, because I have friends that help me become a better man and husband and father, and she grows from her friendships as well and so we bring that to our marriage. And then we, of course, can enjoy other couples together as well if it fits.
Dave: Hey, Drew, I was thinking, end this conversation this way. There's a guy listening, a husband, dad and of course, it could be a woman as well.
Ann: Yes, it could be a woman.
Dave: But I'm thinking of the guy that's saying “I agree. In fact, Drew's convinced me today, this is, the theology of friendship is real. It's Scriptural. I need to be—I need to have friends in my life. I really don't have any. What do I do?” What would you tell him to do?
Drew: Couple of things; one, ask God for friends.
Drew: The Lord made you for friends. He orders everyone's lives. He can bring friends into your life. So just pray and ask the Lord, “Would you bring me a friend? You made me for this. I need this. Please help.” And then I would say focus not so much on finding a friend, but on being a good friend. As you're around people, just open up conversation, focus on them, ask questions, love people well, be interested, be an encourager rather than a critical person—that keeps people from even wanting to be your friends—don't be a gossip. I mean all the things a basic—like follow Jesus, become like Him, and be a good friend to people. Then pray that the Lord would use that to bring friends into your life.
It's different than “I'm going to do this on my own and I'm going to get a good friend. I'm looking for people that are good friends for me.” That just won't work.
Ann: I like that advice because especially with women, I've talked to women, they're saying “Nobody will be my friend.” But I like what you said, and even when I read that, of like become a good friend, become someone that's loving people, praying for them, “How can I pray for you?” start there and pray.
Dave: I mean, it's easy to be the victim. You know even when I would preach on this, I would think there are some people thinking, “Well, nobody's ever reached out to me.” It's like, you know what? You reach out, you initiate, and God will answer that prayer.
Drew: Yes, 100 percent.
Shelby: Spend less time searching for the right people and more time on becoming the right person. I love that because it draws your attention to deepening your relationship with God and having other relationships flow directly out of your primary relationship with the Lord. So important and great perspective; loved it.
I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Drew Hunter on FamilyLife Today. Drew has written a book called Made for Friendship, and it talks about and explores God's design for friendship and what it really looks like in practice, giving us practical advice to cultivate the kinds of true friendships that lead to true and life-giving joy. If you'd like to pick up a copy, you could find one at FamilyLifeToday.com.
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Now tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are back again with Drew Hunter to talk about the evolution of parent child relationships as they evolve into friendships. That's tomorrow. We hope you'll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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