Before I start this post, I would like to first share with you three points:
- First, my understanding of what a “support system” is. A support system is not your group of friends who will just agree with everything you want and choose to do. I believe that a true support system is one that challenges you, prays for you, prays with you and loving enough to correct and rebuke you. I believe that a true support system puts higher value on the friend rather than the friendship; one who will lead you to the likeness of Jesus and not one who will just Christianize things to fit your preferences; and one who prays for your faithfulness to God and not your loyalty to them.
- Second, there is danger in relying on support systems. Co-depending on any friendship is not only idolatry but can also lead to distorted desires. We are all needy people. We are hungry for approval, for friends, for companionship, for intimacy, for love and for a place to belong. These hungers are meant to lead us to the Bread of Life (John 6:35) and not the people around us who are just as empty as we are. We can’t and we won’t find worth, purpose, belonging and security from other people because only Jesus can give those.
- Lastly, there is no such thing as a perfect support system. Perfect relationships and circumstances do not exist on this side of eternity.
The purpose of this post, therefore, is to share with you how support systems can be about getting more of Jesus and not getting more of each other.
When I was not yet in Christ, having no personal relationship with God, I perceived friendship as enjoying things together, making one another feel happy, and being supportive of whatever everyone desires to do. I enjoyed the constant companionship and affirmation. I also made sure that they were updated with whatever gossip or happenings I had or knew of. We partied and got drunk together, even smoked weed during night outs and cigars on road trips, slandered those who were against us, enjoyed many sleepovers, and persevered on late study nights together.
It didn’t really matter if the things we were doing/thinking were right or wrong, meaningful or not. For as long as we were happy with it and they were happy with me, everything was good.
Friendship to me back then was toleration. Love meant no negation. Sure, we had shoulder-to-cry-on times, no holds barred moments and a lot of boy talks but thinking about it today, I realize that those friendships were shallow and lacked true purpose because they only revolved around us.
When I was young in the faith, new to my personal relationship with God, I saw friendships in two ways — a gasoline station and a trash bin. Even though the things we were doing were already intentionally meaningful (like studying the Word and worshipping the Lord together), it was either I perceived friendships as a place where I can go to when I’m running empty/broken or as something where I can dump all my heartaches and uncertainties.
I even used drain levels and the weight of garbage to gauge the love of the Christian friend I was with. It was as though they had to fill me up with my self-craved affirmations and comfort. Of course they encouraged and helped me like how Jesus would but thinking about it today, I realize that I gazed at those friendships with selfish intentions. I wanted those friendships to just be about me.
And I am still being reminded today that my God-given support system is not about what I can get out of them or what they can get out of me or what we can get out of each other; it’s about getting more of God. How? Let me share with you two facts about a strong support system.
A strong support system is willing to slap you with the Truth not merely to rebuke you but more importantly to free you from yourself.
There were many times when I would pour my heart out to my accountability partner and close Christian friends, only to receive a “Get over yourself” advice. Sounds harsh right? But they knew, praise the Lord, that it was what I needed.
We live in a society today where we would much rather have friends who always tell us what we want to hear, who excuses sin and self-centeredness with us and for us, and who gives us the false hope that we can grow in Christ without having to turn away from what drags and deceives us. Nobody enjoys being told that they are wrong and nobody wants to be caught in sin, and so it becomes convenient for us to settle with a self-centered false gospel.
This is the reason why we are in a desperate need for a strong support system (that is, a Christ-centered friendship) today. We need to be with people who are in love with Jesus because those are the people whom God can use to reveal to us our sins and blind spots. We need others to speak the truth in love to us (Ephesians 4:15). We need to speak the truth in love to others also.
A strong support system points you to Jesus FOR Jesus.
Usually, after that “Get over yourself” advice, I would get the “Fix your eyes on Jesus” encouragement. I say that this is an encouragement because it leads me to break my mirror and instead to gaze upon Jesus — who He is, His character, His heart and how he responds on circumstances and towards people.
I also say that this is loving because they are pointing me to The One whom I should focus on. They’re not saying it because it is the safest or most convenient thing to say; but because it’s the reminder we all need in this sin-stained world full of our self-preoccupations and hell-bent enemy. They’re not saying it because they will sound good or look like the angelic set of friends; but because it’s the reminder we need for us to not go through things with our own strength and strategies or perhaps our own isolations.
I’m not going to lie to you. There were times when I felt offended when I was abruptly told to get over myself. There were also times when I felt like it was so insensitive of them to just tell me to come to Jesus (as though it was that easy given whatever circumstance I was at). But at the end of the day, I have two options to choose from: I can take it against them or I can embrace it.
The first will only lead me to a deeper pit of self-righteousness while the latter will bring me to freedom — the kind of freedom that can also become a gateway for someone to become a friend who will point people and then bring people to Jesus.