and spiritual health as rest, exercise, and prayer. We don’t just want friends—we need friends. Yet sometimes they can be as difficult as singing a song without the lyrics.
If you’ve ever been hurt by a friend, struggled to balance friendship with everyday life, or seen a friendship end too early, Heart Sisters will help you:
- Overcome your fear of being hurt by other women,
- Practically examine issues so you can work your way through conflicts,
- Recognize when it’s time to establish healthy—and holy—boundaries,
- Get right with God so you can get right with others, and
- Discover the secret to authentic friendships.
With discussion questions and real-life examples, Heart Sisters will help you be the friend you want to have.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Becoming the Friend You Want to Have
By Natalie Chambers Snapp
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2015 Natalie Snapp
All rights reserved.
But Do We Really Need Girlfriends?
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.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I've always wanted to have a sister. For as long as I can remember, I longingly watched the girls who had built-in playmates to share giggles with in the middle of the night and inside jokes about Uncle Harry at family reunions. As an only child, I would have taken a brother as well, but a sister? Oh, the desire of my heart was strong. In fact, I still find myself feeling like an outsider looking in to blood-sister relationships during those moments when I forget I do indeed have sisters—though not by blood.
Through His grace, God granted me those sisters years later. No, we don't have a shared childhood and we don't have inside jokes during family reunions. However, we do have heart connections that only sisters can have, and the love I possess for these women rivals the love I have for my husband and children. You mess with one of my sisters and the pit bull of my usually even-keeled self starts to smack its jowls.
After becoming a follower of Christ when I was twenty-seven years old, I quickly put the pieces together that it is He who creates us as women to be relational beings. Listen, I love my husband something fierce, but let's face it—there are some things the men in our lives are just not going to understand. And who are we kidding? They don't want to understand everything.
During our newlywed years, I told my husband more than he ever wanted to hear. I gave him the whole book when what he really wanted was the summary on the back cover. I lost him early and found myself offended when he only listened to 70 percent of the story because I wanted 100 percent of his attention. Similarly, my husband understands why our two young sons, who are fifteen months apart, have the desire to catapult themselves off the top bunk of their beds because he once was a young boy who wanted to do the same thing. He is; therefore, he knows. Meanwhile, my daughter and I look on, befuddled yet accepting that we'll never quite understand, while at times the boys look at us in the same way.
Now, let's change the scenario to one of my closest friends and me in a booth at our favorite Mexican joint munching on chips and salsa and talking over the same situation I shared with my husband. Invariably, my friend wants to hear more of the story. She might ask guiding questions or offer solutions or points to ponder from a female perspective because women typically get other women. This doesn't mean our husbands don't "get" us—there's just a different level of understanding between two women who both know what it's like to have lost yourself amid the diapers and feedings or the carpooling or the pressure to balance it all. Don't get me wrong—our husbands can also be incredibly insightful and sensitive to our thoughts and feelings. I'm in no way bashing the male species.
However, the truth of the matter is we need other women in our tribe. We need to lean on one another and hold each other up when it feels like we can't walk. We need someone to lov-ingly tell us we should apologize to our spouses when we're in the wrong. We need someone to speak up if the dark brown lipstick makes us look like a corpse. Simply put, God knew we would need all kinds of relationships to fulfill the desire He placed in each of our hearts to live in community.
When we expect our husbands, or any man for that matter, to fulfill all of our relational needs, we are placing an enormous amount of pressure upon his shoulders. If we keep expecting him to fulfill the role of girlfriend, husband, and in some cases, God, we are setting that man up for failure. It's just not realistic nor is it fair to expect him to be able to meet every one of those needs. (And if you have the courage to read the former sentence out loud to your husband, tell him I said "you're welcome.")
So let's consult the Bible and dig around a bit, shall we? Evidence of women-as-relaters is found throughout the Bible beginning with the creation of Eve. God created Adam but soon realized there was "no suitable helper" (Genesis 2:20). After placing Adam in a deep sleep, God created Eve from one of Adam's ribs and he awoke to find the bone of his bone and the flesh of his flesh. No small feat, and of course, he suddenly had the suitable helper he needed. If only it were always so simple, eh?
Eve was created to commune with Adam. The mother of us all was made from his very being to interact and relate to Adam, the first man on the planet. It's a good thing she seemed to like him—she didn't have much else of a choice! Besides this, she became his "help meet" (Genesis 2:20 KJV) and apparently did so pretty effectively since eventually Cain and Abel were born. There might have been a little dysfunction since Cain eventually killed Abel, but then we can rest assured knowing that even the first family on earth had a little baggage.
There's no way around it, sisters. We are who we are who we are. We can't expect the cat to start barking. We are relationship seekers and we were created to be so.
Ruth refused to leave Naomi. Mary immediately sought Elizabeth after learning she was carrying the Christ child. Esther used her relational understanding to stop the destruction of the Hebrews. The list continues but, suffice it to say, there are several examples of women as relaters throughout the Bible.
However, it's not just the Bible that demonstrates the importance of women as relaters. In a landmark study from UCLA roughly ten years ago, it was discovered that when women feel stressed, their brains release a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin makes women want to surround themselves with other women, and this releases even more oxytocin, which has a relaxing effect and makes us think everything might be all right after all.
Left over from a time when humans had to be more aware of their surroundings in order to live, the fight-or-flight response describes our natural inclination to flee the scene if we feel threatened. However, the research that coined this phrase was conducted mostly on men. The same UCLA study referenced above found that women and men actually respond to stress differently. (Which, I might add, I didn't need an official study to know. Throat clear.)
In her book The Tending Instinct, Shelley E. Taylor discovered that when women feel stressed, they "tend and befriend." In other words, after a tough day, we like to spend the evening tending to our children and befriending our sisters around us. Let the oxytocin gates open and may the flooding begin, I say. The more oxytocin released, the calmer we feel. Hook me up to an intravenous drip, please.
Our bodies even respond biologically when we spend time with girlfriends, thus explaining why a night out with the girls now and then is essential to our sanity. Likely due to the oxytocin release, several studies have found social relationships are helping us to live longer, too. Those who have a strong friendship network find themselves with lowered cholesterol, heart rate, and blood pressure. Harvard University is even in on this as well—in their well-respected Nurses' Health Study, they discovered that a woman without a network of friends posed a risk to her health that was comparable to smoking or carrying around extra weight. Sobering facts indeed. Girlfriends are a lifeline we cannot afford to live without.
The Bible not only includes several examples of women as strong and pivotal relational beings but also showcases a few women who chose not to live in such a sisterly manner as well. Leah and Rachel, who were blood sisters nonetheless, lived in a state of constant jealousy and rivalry with one another. Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah, a woman he found unattractive but who was so fertile she bore him six sons and one daughter. Yet Jacob didn't love her in the way he loved her sister, Rachel. It was Rachel he wanted all along because she was a knockout of a woman, but get this—she was infertile. In fact, Rachel was so bent on bearing sons for Jacob she offered up her maidservant, Bilhah, who bore him two sons. No wonder the twelve tribes of Israel came from Jacob's lineage—he was one prolific breeder.
Some scholars believe that Leah's "weak eyes" refer to the fact they were likely crossed or disfigured in some way. Though her beauty may not have won her the Miss Israel title, she possessed the good eggs that conceived several sons, which eventually led to six of the tribes of Israel. Rachel wanted nothing more than to bear Jacob sons, and Leah wanted nothing more than to obtain Jacob's love. They both desperately wanted what the other possessed. Looking sideways at what others have instead of looking up to God and thanking Him for what He's already given you never leads to anything good. The story of Jacob's wives was the perfect storm—and to think some people believe the Bible is an outdated history book. This trio's story is juicier than any episode of Days of Our Lives I've ever seen; not to mention their dilemma is one that continues among women today.
Another example of strife between women in the Bible is Sarai and Hagar. Like Rachel, Sarai (later renamed Sarah) was unable to conceive a child with her husband, Abram (later renamed Abraham). Also like Rachel, she offered up her maidservant, Hagar, to Abram, who lay with her and conceived a son. Soon after, Hagar began to resent Sarai, and Sarai quickly blamed Abram for putting her in this position. (Can you just picture a befuddled Abram trying to figure this one out?) Evidently, he was ready to wash his hands of this situation as he gave Sarai permission to do as she liked with her maidservant. Sarai's solution was to simply be so horrible to Hagar that the only thing the poor maidservant could do to alleviate this tense situation was to flee her mistress.
And flee she did. Hagar ran, confused and alone and desperate to know what God's plan was for her. God spoke to Hagar while she was retrieving water at a well during her journey, and after instructing her to go back to Sarai with the promise He would give Hagar too many descendents to count, He said:
You are now with child
and you will have a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
for the Lord has heard of your misery.
He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone's hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward all his brothers.
Ishmael later became the patriarch of Islam. The repercussions of a fallen female relationship know no boundaries, and its impact can go further than you ever imagined. I'm pretty sure Sarai had no idea of the generational impact her impatience with God's timing would produce.
And, yes, I know there are women who have been horribly wounded by other women. I understand why some women desire to just be left alone or count only men among their friends. One of my readers, who we'll call Stephanie, confided in me she's only recently had girlfriends because she was betrayed and deeply hurt by a friend while in college. This particular friend shared personal information about Stephanie with others—information that had been shared in confidence and was tender to Stephanie's heart. Doesn't this just make you think of the phrase "with friends like these who needs enemies?"
Stephanie retreated from female relationships and became very selective of whom she would give a glimpse into her vulnerabilities. She became a "surface friend" to many but didn't have any friends who truly knew her heart. Stephanie found women to be catty and petty and preferred the company of men.
However, as we discussed earlier, men are equipped to only go so far into the heart of a woman because at the end of the day, they're not women. Being just one of the guys might work for a little while, but eventually, there are going to be situations where a female heart will desire friendship with other women. Our spouses can't be expected to be our sisters. Luckily, Stephanie was able to work through this past hurt, and today has been rewarded with true Heart Sisters who love her and can completely be trusted.
It doesn't help that our culture seems to glorify and profit from catty behavior either. The whole "Real Housewives of Wherever" series is fraught with behavior between women that actually encourages us to live in strife with one another. In fact, the cattier and more disrespectful the behavior among the women on these types of programs, the higher the network ratings. It's true that a story of conflict naturally piques our interest as those disabled by the flesh, but what would happen if we just simply refused to watch shows like "The Real Housewives of Wherever"?
As followers of Jesus, it's our responsibility to monitor what we allow to enter our hearts. If we do indulge in a guilty pleasure, balancing it out with what is true, noble, pure, and just will keep our hearts centered on God. Television, books, magazines, and websites impact us more than we know. It's our job to guard our hearts above all else, and this includes monitoring what we allow into our souls. Caring is always better than catty.
If we waste our time being catty instead of caring, we are extinguishing the light the Holy Spirit illuminates within us. While teaching the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus talked to the crowd around Him about being the salt and the light. He often taught in parables, stories told with a simple lesson or moral. These intentional parables always had a specific focus, and Jesus knew the direction He was heading and the lessons He wanted His listeners to glean. I admit to being a bit befuddled when I first read about the salt and the light because come on ... I can purchase salt in a cylinder at my local grocery store for about a dollar. How valuable is that?
Turns out, very. In ancient times, salt was thought to be extremely rare and quite valuable. It was often used as currency, was the culprit of a few conflicts, and according to Homer, was a "divine substance." Salt was set apart. Precious. Not to mention 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.
In other words, salt is not only precious and valuable. It's useful. And we're called to be the "salt and the light"—which means we are precious, valuable, and useful.
Salt also naturally brings out better flavor in what we eat and preserves food from spoiling; therefore, we are to bring out the better flavor in others and keep them from spoiling. In this way, we are useful to God. In the NET Bible, Jesus tells us, "You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its flavor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people" (Matthew 5:13). 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. Luckily, God's grace covers those less-than-favorable moments.
So we're called to be the salt, which means we are to be set apart. We're precious, valuable, and useful. But we're also called to be the light. Like salt, there is a certain power in light we so often take for granted. Light allows us to function after the sun goes down. It makes scary moments feel not as frightening when it's turned on. It produces a comforting glow. Figuratively, light illuminates the secrets we want to keep in the darkness, so the enemy can't prowl around them anymore. Light is powerful, illuminating, reduces fear, and encourages truth.
It's a bit of a tall order, sisters. If we're called to be the salt and the light, then we're asked to be set apart, precious, valuable, useful, powerful, illuminating, fear-reducing, and truth-seeking. As Jesus shares, "You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16 NET).
Excerpted from Heart Sisters by Natalie Chambers Snapp. Copyright © 2015 Natalie Snapp. 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
A Letter to Readers ix
1 But Do We Really Need Girlfriends? 1
2 Get Right with God, Get Right with Others 16
3 Seek and You Will Find 37
4 Clash of the Titans: Muddling Through Conflict 55
5 The Forgiveness Business 74
6 Blurred Lines: Establishing Holy Boundaries 90
7 Texting, Twitter, and Tumblr: Friendship Etiquette in a Digital World 109
8 Tomorrow's Heart Sisters: Teaching Our Daughters to Be Good Friends 125
9 Heart Sisters at the Office or Ministry Team 143
10 What Does a Heart Sister Not Do? 155
11 What Does a Heart Sister Do 171
About the Author 188