By / Nov 8

In the 2008 comedy, Step Brothers, Brennan (played by Will Ferrell) and Dale (played by John C. Reilly) are newly established step siblings after their single parents marry one another. The movie shows the antics that ensue when two grown men who have never left home are forced into sharing their lives together. The goofy, and admittedly irreverent, tricks they play on one another come to a point when they discover that they have much more in common than they realized. Brennan asks, “Did we just become best friends?” “Yep,” is Dale’s quick and assured reply. Their friendship then develops through common interests such as velociraptors and Steven Seagal movies. 

Friendship in this way is mostly about common interests. So long as there is agreement on favorite movies, fast-food restaurants, and 80’s rock bands, friendship is possible. Common interests are certainly avenues for establishing relationships, but can true friendship be sustained on Taco Bell runs and the latest superhero movie franchise? Is it as simple as declaring someone as your best friend? 

What are the ingredients for true and meaningful friendship? We can learn much about deep friendship from Augustine of Hippo (354–430 AD).

Friendship as a school in Christian love

Paul Waddell, scholar of friendship and Christian ethics, describes Christian friendship according to Augustine in his book Friendship and the Moral Life. He explains it as a “school in Christian love.” Augustine described a similar “Step Brother” friendship in book 4 of his Confessions. They shared common interests and pursuits, and while they didn’t settle-in for a Steven Seagal direct-to-home action flick, Augustine assumed this friendship was genuine. He soon came to realize that this friendship could not be a friendship in its truest form because it was not centered on Christ. 

Reflecting on this friendship after the fact, Augustine stated, “But in childhood he was not such a friend as he became later on, and even later on ours was not a true friendship, for friendship cannot be true unless you [God] solder it together among those who cleave to one another by the charity poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given to us.” Thus for Augustine, true friendship occurred when one loved the good in another, with the good reflecting God in that person. 

While he wrote about specific relationships in his Confessions, we see specifically how he viewed friendship in his numerous letters. Augustine was certainly not the first to discuss friendship. The topic of friendship had occupied the minds of philosophers centuries prior to Augustine. Unique to Augustine, however, was his view that friends and friendship were a gift from God. 

Whereas Aristotle would assert that we choose friends based on the virtue we see in them, Augustine viewed friends as those who are placed in one’s lives for the purpose of seeking God together. Friendships that have their genesis with God must find their source in God. It originates with the Spirit and propels friends toward friendship in God’s eschatological kingdom where all will be friends as they share in true friendship with God.

Friendship as a work of the Spirit

The key for Augustine was love granted by the Holy Spirit through grace. God-initiated love is the binding agent for true friendship. Also important for Augustine was that friendship be rooted in the triune nature of God. Whereas the Roman orator Cicero (106–43 BC) defined friendship as “agreement in all things human and divine,” Augustine refined the divine character of friendship to depend upon the inner relations of the triune God. Human friendship can only begin from the perspective of trinitarian love. The center of Christian friendship is the Spirit, that trinitarian bond of love. This love both connects friends together and serves as the means of mutual transformation. 

Grace is also essential for Christian friendship according to Augustine. Agreement on best pizza toppings does not make for a true friendship. One needs transforming grace focused toward God’s kingdom. Friendship, for Augustine, is the context where this kingdom love is learned and practiced. Therefore, Christian friendship is vital if one is to grow in kingdom-focused eternal love. 

A debt owed to all people

In his letters, Augustine often described friendship as a “debt” that each one owed to the other. His friend Evodius even wrote Augustine to collect on this “debt” (ep. 158.1). In his letters to the deacon and eventual bishop of Rome Celestine, Augustine described a certain “debt of love” that was owed based on a mutual affection for the other person (ep. 192.1). According to Augustine, love is owed to one another based simply on the fact that one is a fellow human. Love for one’s enemy sought to transform them “whom we truly love to become a friend” (ep. 192.1). Friendship is owed to all people based on a shared human nature, even though its truest and final fulfillment is found between those who claim the name of Christ. 

Despite what some ancient philosophers said, friendship was not for an elite few, according to Augustine. Love is due for all. This ideal of friendship is expressed in his letter to a wealthy widow named Proba. He asserted, “The health and friendship of a human being are sought for their own sake. . . . Likewise, friendship should not be bounded by narrow limits, for it embraces all to whom we owe affection and love” (ep. 130.6, 13). Thus, friendship is a practical way to demonstrate the love that Christians are called to exhibit to everyone. 

According to Donald Burt, since we cannot make friends with every person on earth, Augustine’s encouragement should cause us to “strive to make every human we meet a friend.” This was Augustine’s posture in his engagement with Christians and non-Christians alike. Augustine extended the hand of friendship in order to bring others to the truth. To those who are not yet true spiritual friends, we love and befriend with the hope that they will one day be counted among true friends in the eternal city of God.

The transformative potential of friendship

Augustine believed that the command to love God and love others never ceases but is extended throughout eternity. Our love for others, the foundation of friendship, is grounded in the love of God. In writing to Proba, Augustine framed the universal love owed to all as the beginning of Christian friendship. This was a transforming type of love, which sought to turn enemies into true friends transformed by God’s grace. Augustine concluded, “In him we, of course, love ourselves if we love God, and by the other commandment we truly in that way love our neighbors as ourselves if we bring them, to the extent we can, to a similar love of God” (ep. 130.7, 14).

So while friendship may require more than agreement on favorite dinosaurs and action movies, it can be as simple as asking someone, “Did we just become best friends?” If we consider the example of Augustine, we can show the kind of Christian love we are called to give by extending the hand of friendship to all as we are able. While the truest friendship is only possible between those who have the gift of the Spirit, and while not all of us will be close friends, by seeing everyone as a potential friend we can begin good and fruitful conversations that may lead to one enjoying true friendship in the light of God’s grace and love. 

By / Aug 19

Aristotle said that friendship is “an absolute necessity in life.” And from a Christian perspective, I think that is on target. “No one would choose to live without friends,” the philosopher wrote, “even if he had all the other goods.” Indeed, if we think back to the opening pages of Scripture, we see this same idea in the life of Adam. After God completed the rest of his work of creation, he placed Adam in the garden of Eden to “work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). In the midst of a perfect creation, there was one problem: Adam was alone.

Adam at that time had every kind of good. He lived in a perfect world. He experienced none of the pain or hardships of life. There was no sickness nor affliction nor strife. And above all of that, he had a relationship with the Living God, who walked with Adam in the garden in the cool of the day (3:8). But even though Adam had a seemingly perfect existence, being at peace with God and the creation that surrounded him, his life was incomplete. And recognizing this, God made for Adam “a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18).

Friendship is indispensable

Friendship is something common to humanity because it accords with our nature. God created us as relational beings. As we live our lives, we crave relationships. That is one of the reasons the lockdowns of this season have been so devastating. People are not able to experience the benefits of in-person relationships at nearly the same volume or frequency that they are accustomed to. And, like Adam, we are not meant to live alone. Few of us are able to thrive in extended periods of isolation. 

Think about the indispensable role that friends play in our lives. We find happiness in the company of friends as we share time and experiences together. We find comfort in our friends as we experience hardships and trials in our lives. And we find ourselves turning to our friends to celebrate the joys of life. True friends are companions that stick with us through the best and worst times of our lives, which is why Proverbs speaks of the friend “who sticks closer than a brother” (18:24). Friendship is something we are not supposed to live without.

Friendship is valuable

Our friends serve us in many ways. And one of the most important ways they do so is by helping us see things more clearly. Recently, I posted on social media about the value of having friends across the ideological spectrum. My point was that having friends who disagree with us about important issues can keep us from arguing against caricatures or straw men because we can put the face of a friend with the position we are speaking against. Honestly, I was surprised by how deeply that message seemed to resonate with a lot of people. 

None of us are prepared to withstand all of life’s challenges, at least not on our own. But the good news is that for Christians, we not only have the Holy Spirit within us, but the church around us as we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

I was thinking about this aspect of friendship because a friend from work recently pointed me toward their.tube, which is a website I had never heard of. But if you visit the site, you’ll discover that it models how different types of people experience YouTube. Like almost every form of social media, YouTube is driven by an algorithm. It shows you more of what you want to see and screens out things you don’t like so that you will spend more time on the platform. 

It only takes a few minutes on their.tube to size up the impact of these algorithms. To keep you on the platform, they create a giant echo chamber. From the moment you log on, YouTube (or Twitter or Facebook) creates a feedback loop that is designed to show you things you want to see—not necessarily things that make you happy, but whatever keeps you engaged. I suppose that is fine if we are talking about videos of kittens or comedians. But social media is actually where many people turn to gather information about much more important matters, like politics and culture and even religion. 

Those are critical areas of our lives to hand over to an algorithm. And that is why it’s helpful to remind ourselves that what we see on social media doesn’t always correspond to real life. More than that, it’s one of the reasons we need relationships in the real world. Meaningful friendships serve as a kind of moral anchor; they can help us keep our bearings whether we are encountering echo chambers, ethical dilemmas, or other kinds of challenging circumstances.

Friendship and faith

Our craving for relationships not only accords with our nature, but it also aligns with God’s plan of redemption. Through Jesus, God reconciles us to himself. But he also brings us into a new family, the church. As we read through the New Testament, what we see is that the church is supposed to be a loving community made of people who serve and sacrifice for one another (John 13:34; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 5:21). In fact, it is a community that was, as Jesus taught us, created by friendship: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And in the church, we not only find brothers and sisters with whom we will spend eternity, but friends to walk alongside us as we follow after him.

None of this means that friendship is always easy. Sometimes we experience periods of loneliness. Sometimes our relationships are filled with discord (even Jesus was betrayed by one of his closest followers). But when we encounter such things, we should remember that friendship, like every good gift, comes from above. Pray. Ask the Lord to bless your pursuit of  deep friendships or to bring reconciliation and peace when your relationships become contentious. He is faithful. He cares for you. And he will provide all that you need.

Jesus’ earthly ministry took place in the context of friendship. He chose a group of 12 men and loved, taught, and served them. He modeled the kind of commitment and patience and grace that friendship requires. And in his example, he showed us how friendship is a critical part of the Christian life. None of us are prepared to withstand all of life’s challenges, at least not on our own. But the good news is that for Christians, we not only have the Holy Spirit within us, but the church around us as we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

By / Apr 30

With states beginning to announce plans for opening local economies back up amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many families are going to be faced with difficult decisions. When should we start going out again? Where will it be safe for us to go? When we go somewhere, what precautions should we take? Once looser restrictions are put in place, decisions that were made for us by our government leaders will be placed in our hands. While these choices are indeed difficult ones to make, they will be even more difficult when you consider that people will inevitably disagree about what is best when re-engaging the public on a day-to-day basis.

What do I need to do if those closest to me, including other extended family members and close friends, want to engage with the public is a different way than I am comfortable with for myself and my family? How can I remain loving and kind, even when I disagree with others about how to apply social distancing? While these questions may seem daunting, thankfully, we are not without biblical wisdom on these matters. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Stay informed 

Although the government may begin to loosen restrictions on social distancing, we should continue to listen to the recommendations that are being made by our leaders to protect ourselves and one another. When we take precautions, we are being a loving neighbor to those around us. On the other hand, re-engaging in a prudent way and putting resources back into our local economy is a way to love our neighbor. 

We can find the right balance by deciphering the best information and thinking critically. My family is fortunate enough to be under the care of a family medical practice who has been engaged with COVID-19 and posting regular updates on social media about the pandemic and its public health ramifications. Finding people that you trust, especially local medical and community leaders, can give you the confidence that you are making decisions based on facts and not fear or other emotions. When people disagree with you, you can point them to this information and tell them how valuable it has been in your decision-making process. 

Remember what we can and cannot control

I was encouraged recently while listening to an episode of The Way Home with Dan Darling when he hosted Jesse and Julie Masson discussing the pandemic. Jesse is a skilled Christian counselor who reminded us that there are certain things that we can control, and conversely, there are certain things that we cannot control. When we focus our energy on things that we can control, like how we keep our family as safe as possible, we do not have to fret over the actions of others. Worrying about things we cannot control can bring great levels of anxiety in our lives, but the Lord calls us to bring our anxieties to him because he cares for us (Matt. 6:25-34; 1 Pet. 5:7). The beautiful thing about bringing the cares we cannot control to the Lord is that he can control them, and he is able to work even the grimmest of realities for the good of those he calls his own (Rom. 8:28).

Engage with others about our decisions in an understanding way

Having equipped ourselves with the best information possible, and trusting the Lord with our decisions, we must be ready to talk boldy and lovingly about the way we have decided to practice social distancing without fear or arrogance. If your extended family does not understand why you have chosen not to come to a family gathering, find a way to explain why you have reached your conclusions. Affirm your love for them and your desire to protect others. Even if they do not ultimately understand, your conscience can be clear that you are doing your best to be a loving family member and neighbor. 

Find ways to honor those who disagree with you, whether it’s through continued video calls, letters, cards, and even drive-by visits. Ensure that those who disagree with you do not feel unfairly judged by you, if at all possible. If you find yourself with looser standards for social distancing than those around you, try not to be offended or frustrated with those who disagree. Remember that this is a serious matter that has radically changed our way of living. 

No matter where you find yourself on the spectrum of viewpoints about this pandemic, remember that often the things that divide us are not as great as the things that unite us. Let’s celebrate the love that we have for our Lord and his gospel. Let’s be unified in our disdain for sickness and disease that has broken our world. Let’s all look forward to the hope that we have that God will show himself as good and sovereign even in the darkest of times. Afterall, Jesus said that the unity of the church would be an indicator to the world that he is the one that the Father has sent to be our rescuer (John 17:21). 

By / Apr 19

Perhaps you’re one of those people with many friends. I am friends with people like you. You are likable, fun, considerate, helpful, and all-around good human beings. You are awesome. I flock to you.

These friends of mine, upon hearing that I was writing a book on friendship, asked me to tackle these questions: How does one foster intimate, true friendships and remain hospitable without becoming cliquish? Is it even healthy to cut off the number of friendships you have?

The friends that I mention are women using their influence to serve others, honor others, seek out the best interest of others, and love others in a way that brings glory to the Lord. For those who are jealous of the friend-magnets in your midst, to be fair, I don’t think it’s as cut and dried as it seems. I believe these women are a real-life chicken/egg scenario: do people come toward friend-magnets simply because of who they are, or do these friend-magnets consistently go toward others ready to bless and honor? I see my friend-magnet friends working hard at friendship and being extremely others-centered. They are genuinely interested in others, honor others, and listen to others. My friend-magnet friends all have wildly different personalities, so it’s not that they have a charisma necessarily, although I think they are delightful people. They are simply people who consistently go toward others, no matter who they are, and seek to make other women feel comfortable.

If you are a person who attracts friends easily, please know that you’ve been given a gift from the Lord. You’ve been granted a magnetism and a way of making people feel loved. Thank Him for this gift, but please also recognize that this gift is not about you. The gift you’ve been given is the gift of influence, and it’s important to consider how you will use it.

If you are a woman who attracts friends easily, my encouragement to you is to use your influence to serve the outsiders.

If you are a woman who attracts friends easily, my encouragement to you is to use your influence to serve the outsiders. Keep an eye out for the marginalized, the fringe, the new, the lonely, the quiet and unsure ones. Your influence pointed in the direction of an outsider can have great impact. It doesn’t take much—a word of welcome, an invitation to a playdate, a thoughtful encouragement about a job well-done, or remembering her name—and a whole new world opens up for the one who needs a world, any world, to open up.

The truth of the matter is that we all have the ability to be friend-magnets when we enter a room with the words, intentions, and body language of seeing others–There you are!–rather than saying Here I am! Everyone look at me! Everyone listen to me! or the opposite, false humility response, I hope no one notices me. I will feel too self-conscious. We esteem others as more important than ourselves. We keep an eye out for the one standing on the fringe of the circle. We move toward the outside and pull those we find there into the mix. And let’s face it: Don’t we all feel like we live on the fringes in some capacity? Haven’t we all felt like an outsider at some point? We all know the relief of someone pulling us from the outside to the inside. We’ll be their friends for life.

An honoring person who looks for the outsider soon becomes a safe person for many, many women. In other words, her opportunities for friendship are abundant and overflowing. This is why my people-magnet friends are asking, “How does one foster intimate, true friendships and remain hospitable without becoming cliquish?” and “Is it even healthy to cut off the number of friendships you have?” Because a person who honors others will eventually have to navigate these things.

And I say, in response, that part of honoring others is connecting others. There is a special kind of joy in connecting two women we think will hit off or who share a story, interest, or life circumstance in common. We don’t have to be everyone’s bestie, and just because we’ve included someone doesn’t mean we have to become their intimate friend. We can help foster community among women by being a bridge between them.

So, for my darling friends who are worried about having too many BFFs to handle, this is what I would say: honor all and be deep friends with some. Be friendly and hospitable to all and give intimate attention to a few. Welcome all. Keep an eye out for all. Love all. You don’t have to be close friends with everyone, but you can certainly use your God-given influence to bless others and connect women with one another. Be a friend magnet and you’ll attract joy too.

This post is an excerpt from Christine Hoover’s new book, Messy Beautiful Friendship: Finding and Nurturing Deep and Lasting Relationships, which explores the joys and complexities of friendship among Christian women. Find out more about Christine at www.gracecoversme.com.

By / Nov 30

Where would we be without our friends? They bring such joy to our lives and such comfort in seasons of difficulty, great and small. A shoulder to cry on. A couch to sleep on. A hand to hold.

Friendship is deeply important. The book of Proverbs shows the great practical and spiritual benefits that friendship brings into our lives (Prov. 11:14, 18:24, 19:20, 27:17). Whatever our circumstances, friendship offers us innumerable joys.

Since friendship is so important, we must invest intentional care into it. Have you ever spent time thinking about your goals in friendship? We all want and need friends, but have you ever thought why you want them? We have goals for our work, our family and our finances, but do we consider the importance of goals in our friendships? After all, if our friendships are so important to us, shouldn’t we be intentional in how we think about them, pursue them and grow them?

When we look at Jesus’ life and how he interacted in social settings, his aim was that those he came in contact with would come to know the Father and turn from their sin. Jesus was clear on his reason for walking this earth (Luke 5:22-24, 31-32, 19:10; John 8:19, 17:3). We, now his friends by means of his blood, must follow his example.

The art of surrender

In his wildly helpful book, You Are What You Love, James K. A. Smith encourages Christians to apply some much-needed evaluation to the DNA of our friendships. Smith observes the surrounding culture and the aim behind much of what is constantly before us, arguing that many of the activities that promise to build a sense of community, in reality, actually breed a sense of competition instead.

Within the hemisphere of social media and seemingly innocent activities we participate in, the mindset of competition slowly but surely infiltrates the foundation our friendships. We become obsessed over who is wearing the better clothes, whose blog gets the most traffic, whose marriage is healthier, who abides by the most of Dave Ramsey’s principles. The joys of sports become platforms to shame others. Weekend excursions to the mall become secret missions of self-comparison.

As time passes, our friendships become battlegrounds where we fight against our deepest insecurities and maintain our most precious identities, rather than expose them by serving and caring for our friends. We need to take drastic measures against these toxic pesticides that are wreaking havoc within the soil of our friendships.

Scripture is clear that as we become like Jesus, we must lay ourselves aside and seek out the needs of others, finding ways to serve them, honor them, encourage them and bless them before we have thoughts about bringing focus and attention back to ourselves. In Luke 14:7-11, Jesus rebukes a few wedding guests, explaining we should not compete for distinguished status when we’re around others. Instead, we must seek to give others recognition and honor them in the presence of our friends and acquaintances. Seek the lowest place in the room, Jesus says.

Paul writes in Philippians 2:2-4 that we should exert more energy and brain power thinking about others’ interests, preferences and needs than we do our very own. The Christian shouldn’t act with competitive motives, seeking to get ahead or rise above another person. The Christian’s directive from God’s Word is clear: stay low and focus on others. Don’t worry about how you measure up.

As Christians, we are alive because Christ died. Christ alone accomplished our salvation, the most important victory of all time, through an incomparable act of grace. This had nothing to do with our effort or ability. Ephesians 2:8-9 is clear that we had nothing to do with it because we would never be able to save ourselves. In light of this glorious act, we can’t boast in our own efforts, but instead we boast in God’s amazing kindness. If the most important event in history could not have been accomplished by any one of God’s creatures, why tirelessly seek the high ground to boast in anything that’s less important?

Instead of competing with others, raise a white flag of surrender. God himself surrendered his status in order to give it to us. If he did this for us, we most certainly should do this for each other.

The joy of redirection

So much of what our friendships should be is discipleship. We might think of specifics when we hear the word discipleship, such as a once-a-month coffee meeting, Scripture memory, sexual accountability, evangelism, etc. But when we think of each of these, isn’t this what Jesus calls us to on a regular basis in our friendships?

I think we can learn a lot about the end goal of discipleship from what we’ve already looked at in Jesus’ own life: pointing others to the Father and repenting of sin. That’s the goal for us in a discipleship context, and it’s the goal in our friendships. Daily, through every interaction we have, our aim should be helping others get to know Jesus more intimately by getting to know each other more intimately. One of the biggest ways we do this is heeding Paul’s exhortation (2 Cor. 1:3-7) to give comfort to others in their pain out of the same comfort we ourselves have received.

Because we have gone through seasons of great difficulty, we can bring comfort to others through sharing those times and how God has been faithful. When we surrender our need to compete, we’re free to be vulnerable and transparent about our own struggles, sins, victories and defeats. We can do this because as we think on Christ, we remember our mission to point others back to the Father. We can experience friendship in complete freedom when we lose the desire and fight to be better than others because we know Christ is the most glorious of all.

So our goal isn’t to elevate ourselves, but rather to elevate Christ crucified (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Our desire is that others would find hope in the salvation of the Son. That’s our goal in human interaction. That can happen just as well in the car or at J. Crew as it can in a formal coffee meeting at Starbucks.

That’s the nature of true friendship, and it is the antidote to protecting our friendship from the toxic destruction of pride and self-congratulation. We do this through daily acts of humility, both internally with our minds and externally with our actions, and through a constant redirection of focus from ourselves to God. The Son came so that we could know the Father, and now, we live within the context of our friendships in ways that bring others to know the Son.

By / Mar 20

Substance abuse takes many forms. Whether a person is struggling with prescription drugs, illicit drugs, alcohol or tobacco, the toll on the user and those around him or her is clear and often devastating.

Millions of people tell of the total loss of control of their lives they experienced through substance abuse. Around 20 percent of the U.S. population has abused prescription drugs. The sense many have that these are safe because they are legal has led millions to ruin. Prescription drug abuse has become the nation’s fastest growing drug abuse problem, killing more people annually than cocaine and heroin combined. Illicit drug abuse destroys users even more quickly.

The downward spiral into addiction and all its personal and social costs has destroyed millions of lives. Eight percent of the U.S. population 12 years of age or older have used illicit drugs in the past 30 days. While most people are aware of the devastation of such drugs as cocaine and heroin, they are woefully misguided about the dangers of marijuana. Each year, more teens enter addiction treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than all other illegal drugs combined. Illicit drugs are stealing the lives of our youth before they even have a chance to get started.

Then there are the more socially acceptable drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol is a brutal killer and life destroyer. More than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking, and more than 7 million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent or has abused alcohol. Eighty-eight thousand deaths are attributed every year to excessive alcohol use. It is the third leading lifestyle cause of death in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the truly silent killer among us is tobacco. Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, with more than 41,000 of these deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke.

The Bible is clear in its counsel regarding substance abuse. The Apostle Paul declared, “I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12). Substance abuse interferes with every aspect of our lives. It renders us incapable of giving ourselves fully in service to God and others. We must rid ourselves of these spiritual shackles, and we must look for ways to help those we love as well. Do you know someone struggling with substance abuse? Here are some suggested ways to help.

  1. Pray for your friend. God is more powerful than any addiction and can break through the severest addiction.
  2. Share God’s love with your friend. Many people turn to addictive substances to mask emotional or spiritual pain. The knowledge of God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness in Christ can help your friend gain healing in these areas and break one of the driving factors in addiction.
  3. Share your concern with your friend. Tell him you’ve noticed that he hasn’t been the same lately and ask if he is struggling with something in his life. This is a less confrontational approach that might prevent your friend from going immediately on the defensive. If this fails, you may need a more direct approach. If so, consider including family, friends, pastors and professionals in an intervention plan to confront your friend with the truth of his need. Make sure the intervention has recovery in mind and not merely confrontation and accusation.
  4. Don’t facilitate your friend’s addiction. Your friend may ask you for money or other means to support his addiction. You must share in love that you cannot help him destroy himself.
  5. Encourage your friend to seek professional help. Addiction is often a very complex illness, requiring doctors, counselors and support groups. There are many Christian services and support groups that specialize in helping people overcome addictions of all kinds. Offer to go with your friend. There are also online resources, including help with quitting smoking.
  6. Help your friend find alternative activities.  These can help him break away from friends or places that reinforce his addiction.
  7. Join a support group for yourself. Addiction can be a difficult thing for someone to overcome. There will be many setbacks. You will need the support of others to help you stay encouraged.
  8. Keep yourself spiritually strong. Walking with someone through an addiction can be extremely demanding. You need to make sure you spend enough time with God and godly Christian friends so you have the spiritual and emotional strength to work with your friend through the long process of recovery.
  9. Be prepared to release your friend. You are not ultimately responsible for your friend’s recovery. The cravings of addiction can be overwhelming. The person struggling with it must want to be freed from it and willing to work with you. At some point, you may have to tell your friend you have exhausted all your means of help and you cannot continue. Make sure you point him back to God and other sources of help, and offer to come back alongside your friend if he decides he really wants to be freed from his addiction.
  10. Never stop praying for your friend, regardless of how your efforts turn out.

Jesus told us that “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). Whether you are struggling with substance abuse or someone you know is, God is greater. With his help, freedom from substance abuse is possible. You may be the best chance your friend has to be set free from something destroying his or her life and hurting many others, including you. May you find, in God and the gospel, the source of healing and help for yourself or those you love.


The drug facts cited in this guide are taken from the following sources provided by The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence:

The tobacco facts cited in this guide are provided by the Centers for Disease Control and HHS: