Friendships with other women are as important to our mental, physical, and spiritual health as rest, exercise, and prayer. We don’t just want friends—we need friends. God created us for relationship. Yet despite being more connected than ever before, we struggle to feel connected. From the false intimacy of social media to busyness and relational conflict, there are many challenges to developing authentic relationships.
If you’ve ever been hurt by a friend, struggled to balance friendship with everyday life, seen a friendship end too early, or longed for deeper and more authentic friendships, this Bible study is for you. As Natalie leads you in a deep exploration of timeless truths in the Old and New Testaments, you will learn how to develop and nurture the kind of enriching and satisfying friendships that build up the body of Christ and bring honor to God. Personal testimonies and stories of successes and failures add a level of authenticity that is refreshing and insightful. As you learn to cultivate God-honoring relationships, you will become more like Christ and demonstrate His love to a broken world.
Study participants will find deep study of Scripture's principles for God-honoring friendships; help for navigating conflict, setting boundaries, and learning to forgive; in-depth study of Scripture with testimonies and stories that "ring true," the do's and don'ts of authentic friendships; and Bible-based guidance for building stronger and deeper relationships.
The participant workbook includes five days of lessons for each week, combining study of Scripture with personal reflection, application, and prayer.
Other components for the Bible study, available separately, include a Leader Guide, DVD with six 16-20 minute sessions, and boxed Leader Kit.
“Becoming Heart Sisters is a beautiful reminder of how powerful walking hand in hand with a loyal friend can be. After completing this study, you will be better equipped to be this kind of God-honoring friend. Thank you, Natalie, for the charge to sacrificially love and serve our friends.”
—Lysa Terkeurst, New York Times best-selling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Becoming Heart Sisters - Women's Bible Study Participant Workbook
A Bible Study on Authentic Friendships
By Natalie Chambers Snapp
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2017 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
WHY DO WE NEED GIRLFRIENDS AND WHERE DO WE FIND THEM?
UNDERSTANDING OUR NEED FOR FRIENDSHIP WITH OTHER WOMEN
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
(Matthew 22:37-40 NIV)
Just Between Us
What do you think of when you hear the phrase "Love one another"? Does it conjure up warm, fuzzy feelings, or does it slightly terrify you? It's likely a combination of both.
I have an eleven-year-old daughter and two elementary-school-aged sons. The love I feel for them is warm and fuzzy, yet it's also terrifying. Who knew you could love someone so fiercely? In full disclosure, I also have those days in which I completely understand why some species of animals eat their young. The moments of bickering over trivial details and who gets more of what is enough to make me want to wave the white flag of parenting and run away to a deserted island in the tropics.
While I know my children are good kids, I also have learned so much about the natural bent of human beings by watching them interact. Since the fall of humankind, we've struggled with what some call a "sin nature." Do you agree that we sometimes prioritize our own needs over those of others? Have you ever caught yourself trying to convince someone else to do something because it benefits you? Have you seen T-shirts for children declaring phrases such as "It's All About Me"? We can be a very self-centered lot.
But that isn't how Jesus wants us to live, and His way — the way of love — is much more difficult than it sounds. Who knew loving others could be so hard? Thankfully, God made us all wonderfully unique. He created us to have different desires, interests, opinions, and dreams. While these differences are part of what makes this world such an interesting place, they're also the reason for relational conflict; and sometimes we don't handle those conflicts with love.
Jesus is quite clear in Matthew 22: Love God above all else and love your neighbor as yourself. It really is that simple. Notice He didn't add "unless" at the end of the second commandment. He didn't say, "Love your neighbor — unless she (or he) doesn't agree with you." He didn't say, "Love your neighbor — unless she (or he) doesn't believe what you believe." Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Period.
We have to be in relationship with other people in order to love them. According to 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV), love "does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." Does this convict you like it does me, sister? Authentic and meaningful friendships are one way we can love each other — regardless of our differences. This week we will consider why authentic friendships with other women are so important — not only to fulfill Jesus' command but also to meet some very basic needs. Friend, we were created to have Heart Sisters!
DAY 1: MADE TO RELATE
I once read somewhere that men typically feel most successful when they enjoy their occupations and are providing well for their families. On the other hand, women tend to feel most successful when their relationships are healthy and there is peace among the people in their lives. Although this is a generalization and does not apply to all, it seems to be fairly accurate according to my own observation. It really should come as no surprise to any of us who have read the creation story in Genesis. Adam was tasked with taking care of the garden while Eve was created to be in relationship with Adam. Let's take a look at the story.
Read Genesis 2:5-15 and answer the following questions.
At the beginning of the account, why had God not yet created vegetation? (vv. 5-6)
What do we learn in verse 7 that God created?
What did God create after He placed Adam in the garden? (vv. 8-9)
What did God place Adam in the garden of Eden to do? (v. 15)
Adam was created to work and care for the land. It's no wonder men tend to derive more of a sense of success from their work. This is how they were created!
Now read Genesis 2:18-25 and answer the following questions. According to verses 18 and 19, what did God observe, and how did He attempt to remedy this?
What does the second half of verse 20 tell us?
How did God create Eve? (vv. 21-22)
Eve was created from Adam because no suitable helper could be found. In other words, she was created to be in relationship with Adam because the wild animals just weren't cutting it. I believe this is why we women often feel distress when we're faced with a relational conflict or when those we love are at odds with one another. Because we were created to be in relationship with others, we can feel as if we're going to break when our relationships start to crumble.
Of course, God's purpose in creating men involves much more than work, and His purpose in creating women involves much more than being in relationship with others. In all that we do and above all else, both men and women were created to glorify God (Isaiah 43:7).
Read Genesis 10:32 in the margin. What happened after the Flood?
These are the clans of Noah's sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.
(Genesis 10:32 NIV)
After the Flood, the only people who survived were Noah and his family. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. From these three sons came many offspring, and eventually it became a little too crowded for everyone to live in the same land. Therefore, the various families settled in different parts of the world so there would be enough land for them to live peacefully, as well as enough natural resources to meet the needs of the people. One specific tribe moved eastward and settled on a plain in Shinar.
Read Genesis 11:3-9. What do you learn about these people in verses 3-4? Why did God want to confuse the people who were building the tower?
If nothing were impossible for you, you would have no need for God, right? God saw that the pride among those building the tower was great. If they succeeded in their mission, they would blind themselves to the help and comfort God brings us and would be unable to glorify Him. And glorifying God — making Him known — is what God wants most for us to do.
There are many ways that we can glorify God. Yet when it comes to the ways we find fulfillment, work tends to be at the top of the list for men and relationships tend to be at the top of the list for women. This doesn't mean that women do not find fulfillment in work and men do not value relationships. It simply means that, generally speaking, we have these tendencies because that is how we were created.
We women have been supporting and encouraging one another for quite some time; this concept is nothing new. Unfortunately, we also have been competing and comparing ourselves to one another for quite some time — but we'll talk about that later in our study. Today we're going to examine a relationship between two friends in the Bible who model love and support: Elizabeth and Mary.
Read Luke 1:26-38, paying particular attention to the details that stand out to you. Try to read these verses with new eyes, and ask God to reveal truths you haven't noticed in the past. What did you notice?
Many scholars believe Mary was between twelve and fourteen years old. Now, I understand that teens back then were a little different from modern-day teens (no iPads, no social media, no phones)! Though she was a young girl who lacked in-depth knowledge of the world, she was betrothed to marry Joseph. In Jewish culture of the day, a betrothal represented a commitment almost as permanent as marriage; breaking this off would require a divorce. And did I mention she could legally be stoned to death for adultery? Sure, she didn't commit adultery, but I think we all can agree that getting pregnant through the Holy Spirit might sound a bit outlandish to those in the community.
It is believed that Elizabeth was actually a distant cousin of Mary's and was significantly older. Friendship doesn't have to be limited by location and age!
Mary was in need of a little comfort and truth.
Read Luke 1:39-56. Where did Mary go after she was told of the plans God had for her?
What did Elizabeth say when she saw Mary, and what happened to the baby in her womb?
What did Mary do after she heard Elizabeth's encouraging words? How do you think she may have felt?
Elizabeth's simple encouragement led Mary to compose the beautiful verses known as the Magnificat. In this song Mary glorifies God, truly accepting with peace the mission God has entrusted to her — all because of Elizabeth's encouraging words.
How has a friend encouraged you in the past?
Who is someone you can encourage today?
Never underestimate the power of the encouraging words you speak to the women in your life!
Never underestimate the power of the encouraging words you speak to the women in your life!
Just as Mary went straight to Elizabeth when she needed encouragement, Heart Sisters go to each other when they're feeling down and need a little pep talk. Possessing a mutual trust, they confide in each other, lift each other up by speaking truth, and help each other with the logistics of life. Elizabeth was not threatened by the fact that Mary was pregnant with the promised Messiah. Instead, she opened her home, her arms, and her heart to offer Mary comfort, encouragement, and love. Elizabeth was the ultimate Heart Sister to the mother of Jesus.
Just like Mary and Elizabeth, we all need Heart Sisters in our lives.
Turning to God
To be loved and encouraged by our friends is a great blessing; however, to find a friend who not only loves and encourages us but also helps us to walk closer with God is a rare jewel indeed. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him." Ask God to show you how to be this kind of friend to your friends. Make some notes in the margin if you would like to share what you've heard from God with your group.
DAY 2: NOT JUST A "WANT"
"I don't need girlfriends," she said, trying to mask the hurt I could see overtaking her pretty face. "I have my husband, and that's enough. I've been burned by women, so I just stay away," she further explained. While I understood what she was saying and could certainly identify with her feelings, I also know this leads to a very lonely existence.
I love my husband, but let's just say he doesn't always understand my thoughts and emotions because ... well, he's not a woman — thankfully, of course.
A few days ago, some of my friends and I were standing around my kitchen. My husband, Jason, came home from work early and joined the conversation.
"Do you really think the grocery prices there are cheaper?" asked Jill. Jen chimed in with, "I don't know, but I like their organic selection."
"Do we really need to be eating organic or is it a hoax?" asked Rachel.
"I read online about the amount of pesticides on regular fruits and vegetables, so yes, I think so," offered Katrina. Then we started talking about how you can't always trust what you read online.
Jason was lost. He thought we were still talking about grocery prices at the store.
Now hear me out on this, sisters. I'm not saying my husband isn't a smart man, because he's brilliant (if I do say so myself). The thing is, just like a dog doesn't know what it's like to be a cat, a man doesn't know what it's like to be a woman — and vice versa.
This isn't just my opinion, either. In their renowned nurses' study, Harvard University found that women with strong networks of friends have biological as well as emotional advantages that women without these strong networks do not possess. According to the study's findings, women with strong networks of friends have lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower resting heart rates. Here's what shocked me the most: women without strong networks of friends pose the same risk to their health as smoking and being overweight.
We don't just want friends; we need friends. We were created to love. Loving relationships are at the heart of the gospel. That's what we're going to unpack today.
Read Matthew 22:34-40.
What did Jesus say is the greatest commandment?
What did He say is the second-greatest commandment?
How do you think being in relationship with other women is an opportunity to love our neighbors as ourselves?
Loving God and loving others are the two basic premises of Christianity. When we choose to follow Jesus, we are choosing to love God above all else and love one another. And one of the most effective ways to love one another as we love ourselves is to engage in healthy, authentic relationships.
Yet knowing how to love others can be confusing and downright frustrating at times, can't it? I once saw a quote that went something like this: "I could be a Christian if it wasn't for the people." Have you ever felt that way? Loving others sounds like it should be a simple task, but let's be real: sometimes it's not. Relationships can be a difficult road to navigate, but just because we might trip along the way does not mean we should stop walking! God teaches us some of His best lessons through the bumps we stumble over.
In fact, how we handle those bumps along the way makes others stand up and take notice of our character. First Peter 2:9 says, "You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light." Maintaining an attitude of strength and love while navigating a bumpy terrain — and even when the path is smooth — is an opportunity to show the world what we believe and why.
Read Matthew 5:13 and complete this sentence: Jesus said, "You are the ____________________ of the earth."
I admit that when I first read this Scripture, I was a little confused. I can purchase a large cylinder of salt for two dollars. How valuable is that? Turns out, very. In ancient times, salt was considered extremely rare and quite valuable. Because it often was used as currency, it was the reason for a few great conflicts. The great philosopher Homer called it a "divine substance." Salt was set apart. Precious.
There are more uses for salt than just seasoning our food or melting the ice on our roads. In fact, the salt industry claims fourteen thousand different uses for these small pieces of the only consumable rock in existence. Salt can be used to remove stains from clothing, brighten up the colors of vegetables, seal cracks, extinguish grease fires, and kill poison ivy to name a few. Salt is not only precious and valuable. It's useful. And we're called to be "salt," which means we are precious, valuable, and useful.
Salt also naturally brings out the good flavor in what we eat and preserves food from spoiling; likewise, we are to bring out the good flavor in others and keep them from spoiling. In this way, we are useful to God.
Read Matthew 5:13 again, and fill in the blanks to complete the verse. (Your translation may be slightly different.)
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt_____________________ ____________________________, how can it be made salty again? It is __________________________________, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot" (NIV).
Is it just me, or does this make you a little concerned about losing your flavor? And yes, there are days in which I feel like I've lost my flavor. There are certainly moments when I feel as if God might want to throw me out. Fortunately, God's grace covers those less than favorable moments, and the truth is, He will never throw us out!
Now let's read Matthew 5:14-16. What else does Jesus say we are? And what are we supposed to do?
Not only are we called to be salt — which means to be set apart, precious, valuable, and useful — but we're also called to be light.
Like salt, there is a certain power in light, which we often take for granted. Light allows us to function after the sun goes down. It makes scary moments feel not as frightening. It produces a comforting glow. Figuratively, light illuminates the secrets we want to keep in the darkness, so that they lose their power over us. Light is even more powerful, illuminating darkness, reducing fear, and encouraging truth. But what happens when our light is hidden?
Excerpted from Becoming Heart Sisters - Women's Bible Study Participant Workbook by Natalie Chambers Snapp. Copyright © 2017 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
About the Author 4
Week 1 Why Do We Need Girlfriends and Where Do We Find Them? 10
Understanding Our Need for Friendship with Other Women (Matthew 22:37-40)
Week 2 Getting Right with God 44
Addressing Spiritual Issues that Affect Friendship (2 Chronicles 7: 14)
Week 3 Clash of the Titans 74
Honoring God Through Relational Conflict (Romans 12:18)
Week 4 The Forgiveness Business 108
Letting Go and Being Free (Colossians 3: 13-14)
Week 5 Blurred Lines 140
Establishing Healthy Boundaries (Galatians 1: 10)
Week 6 Heart Sisters Do's and Don'ts 172
Putting It All into Practice (Psalm 37:4)