QUESTION: I have a new friend who I believe the Lord has directed me to befriend. However, she is turning out to be one of the most negative people I have ever met. I have considered phasing out the friendship, but when I pray about it, I feel like I need to stay in the friendship. She doesn't have many friends, and I'm beginning think her negative nature is part of the reason why. What suggestions do you have for me to continue to be her friend but also help her to see she has a big problem?
ANSWER: First, I commend you for being willing to befriend someone based on the Lord's guidance. Many people only befriend those they like without considering that God might want them to befriend someone they aren't initially drawn to. However, when we view friendship as a ministry, rather than a means to having our own needs met, then God can and will use our willingness to befriend those we might not normally gravitate toward.
The drawback to friendship as a ministry is that often the folks who have few friends have issues that are prohibiting those friendships. Your new friend's negativity is an example of this. Since you have felt so strongly about befriending this woman, there is a good chance that the Lord has you in the relationship to help her find deliverance from her negative mindset.
In order to effectively deal with her issue, first understand that your friend probably does not realize she is being so negative. This mindset has most likely become a way of life for her, and she is in a “gloom and doom” mentality by habit. She didn't become negative overnight, and she will not stop overnight either. Therefore, look for little ways to gradually enlighten her. Be ready to subtly insert an occasional question or comment that will begin to make her think about how negatively she's thinking.
Second, don't feed the negativity. When she makes a negative statement, don't reply. If she is trying to get you to join in her dark mood, then your silence will send a message that you aren't interested in joining the gloom. If she is using negativity as a manipulative means to make you feel sorry for her, then your not responding will short circuit her passive aggressive move.
Third, realize that it's not your place to change her; changing her is God's job. You are his instrument of friendship. Focus on being her friend and allow God to use your influence to enlighten her. You cannot fix what's wrong with her, and God will not ask you to. He will mend her mind and heart in His time. Stay true to the friendship calling and celebrate the gradual positive changes that will unfold in her life. Leave the changing to the Lord.
Finally, be encouraged that God has called you to this ministry! He will empower you to be for her what He is for us-a friend who stays closer than a brother, even though we don't deserve it.
The author of 54 books, Debra White Smith holds an M.A. from U.T. and is the featured relationship specialist on the Fox News Radio Show, “Plain Jane Wisdom.” She and her husband, Daniel, co-pastor Palestine Church of the Nazarene. For more information, visit www.debrawhitesmith.com. Got a problem? E-mail Debra at email@example.com