Did you know that one in five American adults report feeling lonely on a regular basis?
According to Barna Group, most of us report having two to five close friends, but find ourselves frequently lonely anyway.
I fit right into that grouping. There are four people I consider to be my best friends and perhaps a dozen more that I count as good friends. These people mean the world to me, but it’s easy to get caught up in daily activities and reach the end of the week without meaningfully connecting with any of them.
Lack of connection quickly leads to loneliness.
There are countless roadblocks between us and strong community, but busyness paralyzes me more frequently than any of the others. The list of urgent, time-consuming alternatives to investing in friendship never ends.
Paring down on commitments seems almost impossible. I’ve made resolutions and purchased the planners but count myself lucky if they simply help me organize the chaos of life.
So what’s a girl to do? We are made to bear one another’s burdens, and we can’t do that if we settle for comparing overflowing calendars and hurrying on to the next activity without making time to share our struggles and joys.
Let me share some good news. It’s possible to cultivate connection even when we can’t find time.
How to Invest in Friendship when Life is Busy
1. Invite Your Friends Into Your Busyness
When you can’t find time, make space. Put the stack of overdue library books in the trunk, wipe the McMuffin crumbs off the passenger seat, and invite your friend to fill that space.
You might have to talk over the shouts of your combined children in the back seat, but you can remedy your loneliness while driving to your next appointment (or to check “return library books” off the to-do list).
If you wait for your schedule to hiccup a few extra hours, there’s a good chance you’ll end up lonely and still waiting. Some of my most meaningful conversations have happened while carpooling with friends. We have prayed and cried and quickly dried our tears to safely merge into the high way exit lane. We have discussed culture, scripture, and parenting in my dark driveway with her kids sleeping in
Making room when you can’t make time isn’t glamorous, but it can be beautiful.
Related: 6 Reasons You Need Godly Friends
2. Don’t Make Perfection More Important Than Connection
One of my friends will turn 102 this year. Once or twice a month, I call her daughter as I leave work and ask if I can swing by for a thirty-minute visit. I pick up a medium cup of coffee and two chocolate chip cookies from McDonald’s, and we share both as we talk.
One of the pieces of advice she likes to give me is, “People visit to see you, not your house.” My friend remembers a time when neighbors dropped by unannounced and the woman of the house wasn’t ashamed to continue folding her laundry as the neighbor sat on her couch for a visit.
These days we envision conversations over steaming lattes in a corner of a coffee shop. Friend dates that look like this are a treasured occurrence, but real life is the best place to cultivate a community of burden bearing friendship.
Don’t let your basket of unfolded laundry tip the scale and cause you to be that one in five that reports being lonely.
Your friends know that your real life doesn’t look like your Instagram posts. Every week I hear complaints about how Social Media makes us feel like other people’s “highlight reel” should be our everyday.
But guess what? Social Media isn’t the right place for your dirty laundry and overtired tears. At least not on a regular basis. The cyber world can’t toss your laundry in the dryer and then pour its heart out to you at your kitchen table.
Your friends can be the real life, give-and-take community of burden bearers it was meant to be if you let them in instead of trying to convince them that your Instagram is the whole truth. When you make room to walk side-by-side through mountains and valleys, you and your friends will know each others’ burdens and celebrations first hand.
It is humbling to invite witnesses into your everyday, but this type of experiential knowing isn’t threatened by your busy schedule. Investing in this type of friendship generates loneliness-repelling-connection that twice-a-year coffee shop meetings can’t match.
3. Say “Yes” and “No” With Equal Discernment
If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard some mixed messaging about these two little words. “Be a ‘yes’ mommy for your children.” “You have to learn how to say ‘no’ to create margin in your life.”
A lot of people have advice on the benefits and detriments of using these words. My conclusion is that they are both beneficial when mixed with discernment. When it comes to investing in friendship when life is busy, you have to be willing to say yes. “Yes,” I will accept your invitation to carpool to swim lessons. “Yes,” I will invite you into my imperfect home. “Yes,” I will choose to cultivate community even though I haven’t yanked the weeds of busyness out of my life yet.
You also need to evaluate the “no” that corresponds with each “yes.” If saying “yes” to investing in friendship means saying “no” to cultivating your relationship with God, don’t hesitate to switch those priorities and give the friend a kind “no” so you can give God a resounding “yes.”
If making room for a friend means taking the space your spouse or child needs, leave that space open and say “yes” to the friend another day. We need to remember that it is not essential to banish loneliness at all costs. This mentality will cause us to add “invest in friendship” to our to-do list. If cultivating community becomes part of the indistinct hum of daily busyness, we lose the connection that we set out in search of.
God is enough. His plan is right and good, even if we find ourselves longing for human friendship and conversation that goes deeper than “Please take that fork out of your nose.”
Sometimes loneliness invades our lives to turn us to Him. That is a hard thing, but not a bad thing. If you’re in a season of lonely busyness, don’t despair. Ask Him for guidance.
If you’re lonely, this article may be helpful! How to Make Friends When Your Church is Full of Cliques
How can you cultivate friendship in your busy life?
- Is there an activity you can’t cut from your schedule but you can make room for someone to join you in?
- Are there imperfections in your home that you have allowed to bar your path to community?
- What are your best yeses and your essential nos? Pray about how you can cultivate without compromising.
- If you are in a season of loneliness, what is God teaching you about Himself?
Do you struggle to invest in friendships in the middle of life’s busyness? What first step can you take this week to prevent busyness from robbing you of community?
Guest post by Leah of leahegood.com.
Counted Worthy, the young adult novel she published in 2014. You can find Leah at leahegood.com.Leah E. Good is a lover of stories, homeschooling enthusiast, orphan care advocate, and daughter of God. She lives in beautiful New England where she stays busy with volunteer work for her church and a full time job in data management. In her free time, Leah enjoys reading and working on the sequel to