Edifying Ways to Spend Time with Friends
By LESLIE LUDY
For most of my teen years, this was the precise formula my friends and I followed every time we got together for a “girls’ night.” I attended many sleepovers and girl get-togethers that consisted of nothing but junk food, binge-watching movies, analyzing available guys, and gossiping about the latest romantic sagas unfolding around us.
There was nothing very edifying about these activities. In fact, I usually came home feeling vaguely depressed. Spending time with my friends was supposed to be fun. But somehow, it only made me feel empty, not to mention guilty about participating in conversations and activities that I knew were not honoring to God.
Once I fully surrendered my life to Christ, I wanted to approach time with female friends differently. But often, I found this was easier said than done. Even as I grew older, I found that many Christian women were programmed for a certain type of behavior around other women. Long after my teen years had passed, I was constantly being invited to women’s gatherings that reminded me of a slightly more mature version of my high school sleepovers.
In my twenties I remember attending a Christian bridal shower in which the majority of the women spent the evening drinking wine, gossiping, and bashing their husbands. (I remember thinking what an irony it was to hear so many women bad-mouthing their spouses at a party that was meant to celebrate an upcoming marriage!)
Another time, a group of Christian women I was with spent the evening talking about their favorite movies, TV shows, and celebrities; getting into a heated discussion about which Hollywood heartthrobs were most the desirable.
And since having children, I’ve noticed that many “mommy support groups” seem to center around criticizing others under the banner of “processing emotions” and “being open and honest.”
Over the past twenty years, I’ve come to realize that it is a rare gift to find Christian women who know how to spend time together in an edifying, God-honoring way.
Letting our spiritual guard down around our girlfriends so often feels normal and justifiable. Our culture promotes this kind of self-indulgent behavior with the message, “Go ahead, let loose! Have some fun, you deserve it!” The prevalent idea is that women today are under so much pressure in their daily lives (from family, work, society, etc.) that it is our “right” to get together with our girlfriends and act however we want. Somehow following the cultural “girls’ night” recipe of chick-flicks, gossip, food, and guy-talk (or some variation of it) is supposed to relieve our stress and help us become better equipped to face our day-to-day challenges.
But does it?
Whenever I’ve been at gatherings with friends that were worldly and self-indulgent, I have always walked away feeling unsettled and agitated rather than refreshed and renewed. On the other hand, whenever I’ve spent time with women who truly honor God and others with their actions and conversations, I have been revived and strengthened.
The Bible warns against the behavior of certain women in the church who wander about “from house to house, and not only being idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not” (1 Tim. 5:13).
What a sadly accurate picture of all too many Christian women’s gatherings today — whether high-schoolers or middle-aged moms.
It’s certainly true that spending time with our female friends can be a refreshing and wonderful experience. But it’s all too easy to fall into the harmful patterns Scripture warns against if we are not purposeful about how we choose to spend our “girls’ nights.”
The culture may tell us that gossip, guy-talk, and self-indulgence are the best way to have fun with our girlfriends, but God has an entirely different model — one that is refreshing, edifying, and truly strengthens us for the challenges of daily life.
Let’s look at some practical ways to exchange harmful “girls’ night” patterns for God-honoring ones.
Making the Exchange – Three Practical Shifts
Typical Girls’ Night Activity #1: Gossip
It’s no secret that God hates gossip and discord in the Body of Christ. (See Proverbs 6:16-19 and Proverbs 10:18.) And yet, we so often justify gossip among Christian women because it is done under the guise of “honesty” or “processing.” A common mentality is that if we don’t openly talk about our hurts, gripes, and complaints toward others, then we are not truly being authentic and open with our sisters in Christ. Many of us have been told that keeping our personal grievances to ourselves is prideful and wrong. When Christian women vent their frustrations on social media, they are often met with encouraging comments such as “Thank you for being real,” or “I appreciate your honesty.”
But “honesty” that criticizes or slanders others is not true honesty at all. Despite what is popular in many Christian circles, the Bible does not command us to share our personal gripes and grievances with other women. But the Bible does tell us to never dishonor others with our words.
Beware of falling into the trap of gossip simply because you are around other women who are doing it. There is Someone who is ready and waiting to hear your burdens — and not just to hear about them, but to carry them for you. That Someone is Jesus. He is a far better Listener and Comforter than any group of girlfriends ever could be! So instead of feeling like you need to process your gripes and grievances with your girlfriends — take them to the feet of Jesus and you will find everything you need.
God-Honoring Alternative to Gossip: Encouragement
If we don’t spend time gossiping or sharing our grievances when we get together with our girlfriends, then what should we talk about during our get-togethers? There are many God-honoring options. But one of the most uplifting, yet often neglected, forms of communication among Christian women is encouragement. When we take time to tell our sisters in Christ about the godly qualities we see in them, it is tremendously edifying and can even be life-changing.
Quite a number of years ago, I was struggling greatly with discouragement. The enemy was constantly whispering to my soul that I was falling short in every area of my life. Around that time, several women in my life wrote me letters of encouragement, telling me how they had seen reflections of Christ in my life. I have never forgotten the impact of those words. Their encouragement deeply refreshed me and pushed the enemy’s voice far into the background.
In recent years I’ve been blessed with friends who understand the value of sharing genuine words of encouragement. When one of us is going through a major life change like moving or getting married, or on special occasions like birthdays, we often get together simply for the purpose of sharing encouragement with that person. Some write simple letters of life-giving words, others share significant Scriptures, and others talk about positive things they have observed in their friend’s life. Both the person receiving the encouragement and the one giving it are always incredibly refreshed and uplifted.
But you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to share words of encouragement with your sisters in Christ. Girls’ nights or other women’s gatherings provide a perfect opportunity to let your friends know what you appreciate about them. If you feel like you are often at a loss for words, take some time in advance to prayerfully consider which specific person God may want you to encourage and what you want to say. If you don’t think you’ll remember your thoughts on the spot, then take some time to write them down in the form of a letter to your friend, or jot down a few simple notes that can remind you of what you wanted to share.
Encouraging your sisters in Christ is the opposite of engaging in gossip. Instead of tearing others down with your words, you are building them up. God’s Word says that we are to “pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Rom. 14:19). Godly encouragement is a wonderful way to fulfill this commission. Even if you feel like you are the one in need of encouragement, remember that Jesus said “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). If you simply take the step forward to encourage you friends — instead of waiting for someone to encourage you — you’ll be uplifted and blessed in a life-changing way.
Typical Girls’ Night Activity #2: Trivial Talk
It’s amazing how women can talk for hours … about nothing. At least, nothing that has any eternal value. With our culture becoming more and more frivolous and shallow, it’s all too easy to fall into idle chitchat with our friends wasting “a precious hour by deliberate choice on something not worthwhile” as Amy Carmichael once said. Of course, laughing and having fun with our friends can be refreshing and healthy, and not every conversation has to be super-serious to be edifying. But mindless chatter about Hollywood hearsay, social media fads, and pop-culture’s values will cause us to become distracted from Christ and consumed by worldly things that are passing away.
The Bible warns us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17).
Jim Elliot once wrote a letter to his sister with this powerful exhortation: “Live every day as if the Son of Man were at the door, and gear your thinking to the fleeting moment. Just how can it be redeemed? Walk as if the next step would carry you across the threshold of Heaven.”
How easy it is to forget that this world is not our home. How easy it is to become consumed with things that will not last for eternity! How many of our pastimes and conversations are spent on things that we will carry with us into Heaven? How many are spent on things that will one day fade into nothing?
Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “See that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Instead of viewing our conversations with girlfriends as opportunities for meaningless, worldly chatter, let’s live as if the next step might carry us across the threshold of Heaven. May we not be ashamed when we stand before our King because of the silly, idle distractions that pulled our gaze away from Him.
One practical way to apply this principle is to continually ask yourself this question: Is this activity or conversation distracting me from Christ or causing me to adopt the ungodly values of the world? If the answer is yes, then you know it’s time to step away from that activity or conversation!
John Tauler said, “A pure heart is one to which all that is not of God is strange and jarring.” This statement has been a powerful reminder to keep me from becoming careless about the things that influence my heart and mind on a daily basis. If a casual conversation with my friends is causing me to develop a flippant attitude toward sin and worldliness, then I know it’s not a conversation I should be engaged in.
God-Honoring Alternative to Trivial Talk: Edifying Truth
If you find yourself in the midst of a conversation that is not edifying or God-honoring, what should you do? In some cases, it’s best to just quietly excuse yourself. Other times, you might have the opportunity to re-direct the discussion into more edifying territory. Asking your friends what they have been learning spiritually or how they have witnessed God’s faithfulness lately is a great way to start. And even if you are with non-believing friends, you can ask them purposeful questions, such as inviting them to share what their hopes are for the future, or to recount a sweet memory from their childhood. If you ask intentional questions and show genuine interest in their responses, you’ll be amazed at how quickly the conversation steers in a healthy, God-honoring, eternally-focused direction.
Sharing with your Christian friends what you’ve been studying in the Bible or learning at church is a wonderful way to keep the conversation centered upon truth instead of triviality. This doesn’t mean that every conversation has to specifically be about spiritual things. But when you are purposeful about “building [each other] up on your most holy faith” (Jude 1:20) you will come away from gatherings truly strengthened and renewed. Two of my friends and I have regular get-togethers where we each share spiritual truths that God has been teaching us, then spend time praying for each other. It may sound like a dull way to spend time together, but nothing could be further from the truth! The Word of God becomes alive and exciting when you hear how it is impacting others’ lives, and when you take time to share your own spiritual journey it can help articulate and solidify what God is doing in your own heart.
Typical Girls’ Night Activity #3: Chick Flicks
What would girl-gatherings be without chick flicks? There is something so appealing about munching on snack food with girlfriends while watching a romantic comedy or heart-warming love story unfold on the screen. And while this kind of activity isn’t always wrong, there are a few pitfalls that we should be careful to avoid.
First, the kind of movie we choose is important. I’ve enjoyed watching clean, inspiring dramas such as Anne of Green Gables or Pride and Prejudice with my Christian friends. But I’ve also been at plenty of women’s gatherings where some not-so-edifying movies were being shown. For some reason, women often justify movies that applaud immorality simply because they fall into the chick flick category. We often fall for the notion that allowing a little immorality, crudeness, and sensuality isn’t as big a deal when it’s a chick flick that we watch with our girlfriends — sort of like believing that road-trip calories don’t count! But according to God, our standards should be just as high when we are with our girlfriends as in any other situation. If Jesus were sitting there watching the movie along with us, would He be pleased or grieved? Answering that question can clear up a lot of confusion as to which movies should be allowed in our lives!
Second, the amount of movies we watch matters. It’s easy to constantly default to movie-watching mode when we want to relax and have fun with our friends, but often this keeps us from having time for the many other edifying activities that we could be choosing to do with our friends. I have personally decided that edifying movies should be an occasional pastime with my friends — not the main way that I spend time with them. Keeping movies to a “once in a while” activity with my friends leaves a lot more time to ask purposeful questions, pray with my friends, talk about spiritual truth, and do meaningful things with them. Prayerfully consider whether movies or other forms of entertainment have taken too great a role in your time spent with friends. If the answer is yes, consider other non-screen ways to spend that same time. A few ideas: cook a meal or bake together, make a special gift to share with someone in need, go on a walk or hike, or even just spend time playing some games together — which lends a lot more to conversation and relational time than sitting in front of a screen!
God-Honoring Alternative to Chick Flicks: Real-Life Christian Heroes
A little-known yet edifying way to experience the thrill of drama, adventure, and romance that we often seek through movies is by reading, watching, or listening to stories of real-life Christian heroes. There are scores of audiobooks, biographies, and even movies and documentaries about men and women of the faith who overcame incredible obstacles and saw God’s faithfulness in profound ways. Experiencing these true stories with your Christian friends is a wonderful way to cultivate deep spiritual conversations and discuss practical ways to apply biblical truths to everyday life.
One of my favorite things to do with my Christian friends is to go through a biography together and talk about how it is impacting us as we read. The benefits far outweigh any temporary “warm fuzzies” that a chick flick could bring! Some of our favorite stories of historical heroes have been:
William and Catherine Booth
Corrie ten Boom
Esther Ahn Kim
Darlene Deibler Rose
Oswald and Biddy Chambers
Jim and Elisabeth Elliot
If watching chick flicks has become a major focus in your time with girlfriends, consider swapping some of those movies for some powerful biographies or audiobooks about real-life Christian heroes. You’ll be amazed at how much excitement and adventure is packed into these amazing true stories, not to mention real spiritual depth!
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Godly friendships are a wonderful gift from our King. Let’s begin seeking to honor Him in how we choose to use this gift. The world has its formula for enjoying time with our female friends — but His pattern is far better and more satisfying! When we invite Him to be the Guest of Honor at our girl-gatherings, we will come away uplifted, refreshed, and fulfilled!
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Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.