How God Brought Me the Older Friends, I Needed
The summer after my freshman year at college, I married, moved back to my hometown, and took college courses online. That fall when all my friends my age left for university, I experienced loneliness. We had been jumping from church-to-church, not developing any relationships. My days were spent in a small cottage in the middle of nowhere on a computer doing school work. The only communication I had on an average day was with my dog until my husband got home at 4:00 pm. In wearisome days, I questioned what purpose I was possibly serving for the Kingdom of God.
One day during my lunch break, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed looking at a variety of photos from my friends starting their second year at university. I should have felt happy for them; instead, tears formed in my eyes. Have I made a dreadful mistake? Should I have waited longer to be married? Should I have stayed on campus?
I messaged Jane, a previous youth leader who the Lord used to lead me to Christ and mentor me in the faith. She is someone I have always known I could go to with questions about the Bible and for encouragement in my moments of pain because of her willingness to listen and thoughtful answers. I explained to her that I felt lonely and discouraged because all my friends were off studying at university. At this time in my life, I had no friends who were my age to spend time with or do fun things with, and no one to pray for me. I told her how I deeply desired to have Christ-centered friendships with people my age in which we pushed each other towards the Lord. To be honest, I was tired of being lonely.
Her response surprised me. She said, “Remember that godly Christian friends do not necessarily need to be within a certain age bracket. God may bring many women of various ages in your life. The church is to be a community of many ages—the older teaching, the younger learning (Titus 2).”
Half-heartedly I responded with gratitude for her advice. Truthfully though her answer was not the one I was looking for.
A few weeks later, after a few failed attempts at finding a church, Jane invited my husband and me to visit her church, even though it was an hour away from where we lived. The first Sunday we attended, we were welcomed more so than any other church we had attended prior. From there, Jane invited me to join a Bible study.
As the weeks went on, my husband and I began to be more involved in this church through Sunday School and spending time with other families in the church. I grew closer to the women in my Bible study, to the point that I was able to be transparent with them about my struggles and ask them for advice and guidance. My husband also became close friends with our pastor, who began mentoring him. We were the youngest amongst our friends, and yet I was content. Today, I am beyond thankful that God blessed me with such wise and gracious older friends.
God taught me the beautiful design of Titus 2. When we focus on all the characteristics of being sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, and subject to our husbands mentioned in verse 5, we sometimes forget the source of such knowledge. In verse 3 we see that God uses seasoned women in Christ to teach and encourage the young women in these godly attributes.
Life on Life Discipleship
Mature Christian women typically have walked with the Lord and studied His Word longer than their younger counterparts. For this reason, they have an abundance of knowledge that they can share with you in your studies. They can also help you be discerning in resources you pick; they can recommend the great pieces they have used and discredit those that are not biblically sound. I have found that through discussing biblical truths in the small group of women from my church, I have learned more than I would have from studying alone. They have also challenged me to go deeper in my studies (rather than surface level reading) and shown where I have gone wrong in my hermeneutics in the past.
The Other Side of Trials
Friends who are older have seen the other side of trials. Older friends can tell you of past suffering that seemed unbearable at the time but ended up proving to be for their best. This perspective has helped me to have a biblical perspective on trials (Romans 8:28-29). Older friends can also provide comfort during those difficult times because they remember what they most needed. Most importantly, they can point you back to the gracious Saviour, who provides not only the strength to get through the trial but helps you see the growth that comes during and after it.
It is such a blessing to have friends who have been married many years. My husband and I were clueless about so many things such as money management, conflict resolution, and taking care of a house; I am thankful the Lord brought these older people into our lives because we would both still be floundering in our marriage without them. It’s one thing to read a book on marriage; it’s another actually to work it out.
I am thankful for these folks who came alongside us and taught us not only those practical aspects of marriage but also how to live as a testimony of the gospel in our marriage. Ephesians 5:22-33 tells us that marriage is to exemplify Christ’s relationship to the church. Husbands are to love their wife as Christ loves the church. Wives are to submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ. Though we both knew the Bible taught this, it was our older friends who demonstrated this to us.
Raising Children and Homemaking
All of my closest friends have at least four children, ranging from ages 3-20. I am so blessed to have such an opportunity to learn how to raise children of all ages and to see what a godly marriage looks like in the midst of that. I could probably name off ten homemaking blogs and books that are worth reading, but none of them compare to walking alongside a real wife and mother seeing her daily implement the gospel into her tasks. It is a beautiful thing to watch my three older friends disciple their children according to the Word of God and see how they make their homes an example of the gospel.
Raising children and homemaking aren’t as glamorous as some bloggers and authors may make it appear. Watching my older friends gives me a realistic picture of what raising children will be like. I see both the blessing and the struggle of their work. Watching them gives me hope that despite my sinful tendencies and many imperfections, it is possible to have a Christian home.
This Is Discipleship
In the end, this is discipleship. This is how God wants the body of Christ to grow, by mature believers teaching younger believers. Don’t ignore older members of your congregation; they have something important to teach you. Also, don’t revile them, respect them for their years of wisdom. I encourage you to humbly find those who are mature in their faith in your church and seek to be discipled by them. Just because they are not your age and may not know all the features of your smartphone, does not mean they have no wisdom for you. Though the times, technology, and culture change, there are some things that never will. One of those is the Lord and the practical outworking of His gospel; a timeless truth that can be taught forever, from generation to generation.