I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, I assumed that I would always be close to my childhood friends. In fact, I specifically remember telling my mom one day, years ago, “Mom, if I never have any other friends besides the ones I have now, I’d still be perfectly content.” (Cue the “awws” over my child-like affection).

My younger self would have been surprised to find out that those people who mattered so much to me then, while still wonderful people in their own right, are hardly even in my life anymore. And I would have been still more amazed to learn of all the incredible people I’d meet later on, people who mean the world to me, and who have changed me for the better. How I would have limited myself – it sure is a good thing God was in control.

If you think about it, a similar trend can be found in many aspects of our lives. As we get older, we grow out of things: clothes, types of music, hobbies, even the foods we like. The same thing can happen with the people in our lives, too. Most of the time, it’s not anyone’s fault; it merely happens because of an increasing lack of commonalities. Our personalities become more developed, our interests unfold, and our talents are honed. Not to mention, moving to a different city or changing schools are other common factors that contribute to the fading of some friendships.

Growing apart from certain friends over time is a bittersweet but natural part of life. God has each person on their own, unique, wonderfully convoluted path, which can, unfortunately, create both physical and emotional distance between friends. In addition, we are each endowed with the gift of free will. Sometimes a person’s harmful choices can necessitate a more deliberate separation, in order to protect ourselves from destructive influences. In these cases, don’t overestimate your own strength in resisting temptation if their company places you in tricky situations. If you feel like you have to “babysit” your friend when you hang out, feel free to say farewell, at least for the time being. This isn’t healthy behavior, and you may be enabling them if you continue otherwise.

As I’ve gotten older, I learned to view my time and energy as precious gifts. I love being able to spend them freely on the most important people in my life. However, because all relationships take consistent effort, it’s worth it to discern whether they are being used well. If a friendship has become one-sided, or if it’s logistically impractical for one or both parties, that might be a sign to take a step back.

Growing apart from a friend can often feel like a huge loss (and that’s completely understandable), but it does get better. Those old friends who I formerly couldn’t imagine life without? While I’d be lying if I said I never miss them anymore, that original sadness has worn away, replaced with gratitude for the time we did share together. I continue to hope and pray for the best in their lives, even if I don’t exactly have a front row seat.

Take heart – as with any relationship in life, no matter how peaceful, tumultuous, long, or short – that person was in your life for a reason, and vice versa. You may never understand in this life the impact that you had on each other, but you can hope to see one another in heaven (if not reunited before then) where everything will be as clear as day.

Sometimes in friendships, and really anytime when dealing with other independent, imperfect human beings, there are things that are simply out of our control. This, however, is not an excuse to sit around feeling helpless. Instead, turn your energies towards what you can do to foster healthy, long-lasting friendships:

1. Be the best friend you can be. Practice being the kind of friend you want to have. Ditch the drama, be loyal and sincere, love them, pray for them, and have fun with them. Be proactive in planning activities together. If you haven’t heard from them lately, give them a quick call. These little, thoughtful acts can go a long way.

2. Appreciate the time you have with them. You get to be friends with this incredibly special, unrepeatable, child of God! How cool is that? At the same time, don’t hold on so tightly that you suffocate them or lose your own identity. Don’t let the fear of losing the friendship diminish the present gift of each other.

3. Know when it’s time to let go. There may come a time when the friendship is simply too difficult to maintain – don’t force it. It’s up to you to be honest with yourself and to listen that spirit of discernment. This doesn’t mean you have to lock them out forever; it’s okay to leave the door open.

4. Trust God. God brought that amazing person into your life in the first place, so don’t doubt His ability and generosity. God knows you, loves you, and truly wants you to be happy. Just like He provides everything else, He will provide the right friends at the right time – all you have to do is ask.

About the Author

Laurie Richard

I’m a former youth group junkie, current college student, and future nurse from small town Mississippi. I alternate between acting extremely mature and super goofy. I love making real connections with authentic people through board game nights, bonfires, and Sunday night pizza runs. Also, I can’t pick a favorite color.

Want to write for Life Teen? Click Here to learn more.