Keeping Your Heart Open to New Friendships After You’ve Been Hurt

by Elizabeth Laing Thompson October 31, 2023
“I thought to myself, ‘I would love to treat you as my own children!’ ... I looked forward to your calling me ‘Father,’ and I wanted you never to turn from me.” Jeremiah 3:19 (NLT)

Pain sliced through me every time I missed that friend, heard her name, or saw her picture on social media. We used to have coffee, sharing life and laughter … but not anymore. We had both made mistakes in our friendship, and now the gap between us felt like a chasm I feared we’d never cross.

When a friendship falls apart, the fallout can be miserable. Insecurity, shame, regret, hurt, fear — all the worst feelings — gang up on us and coil around our hearts, sorrow’s bindings. Perhaps saddest of all, friendship loss can steal our childlike innocence, the openheartedness that once allowed us to make a friend on the playground and instantly love her forever and ever, with a friendship-bracelet bow on top.

If we don’t pray through, grow through and heal from friendship loss, it can cripple us. It can send our hearts into hiding, barricaded behind armored walls. We ache for friendship, longing to try again, but fear locks us down. Being alone may be lonely, we tell ourselves, but at least it’s safe.

How can we keep our hearts open to new friendships after we’ve been hurt? Can we keep our hearts open? I believe we can — by following our heavenly Father’s example of optimism, vulnerability and courage. Listen to God’s poignant plea to His wandering people, Israel:

“I thought to myself, ‘I would love to treat you as my own children!’ I wanted nothing more than to give you this beautiful land—the finest possession in the world. I looked forward to your calling me ‘Father,’ and I wanted you never to turn from me. But you have been unfaithful to me, you people of Israel! … ‘My wayward children,’ says the LORD, ‘come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts’” (Jeremiah 3:19-22a, NLT).

God has been hurt from relational conflict. He has been disappointed. Ignored. Insulted. Abandoned. There’s no betrayal or hurt we experience that God has not felt 10 million times over.

And yet.

After all this, God still loves. Instead of shutting down, giving up, He keeps trying. He keeps His arms, His heart, open to new possibilities. Why? Because God treasures relationships. And those who love Him delight Him so much that He bursts into song (Zephaniah 3:17).

How can God’s example help you and me recover from our friendship hurts?

First, God’s perspective can revive our optimism, reminding us how soul-filling a healthy relationship can be. “I looked forward to your calling me ‘Father,’” God said in Jeremiah 3:19 — I picture Him smiling at the thought.

Our yearnings echo God’s: I just want someone to call me “friend.” We want friends who make us snort-laugh between stress tears, who pray us through big life events, who reassure us, “You’re normal. I’ve been there too.” Those friends are priceless, worth seeking. Worth setting aside our armor.

From there, let’s imitate the Father’s courage in initiating relationships. If you’re like me, you may wish God would drop a new friend directly onto your doorstep (ideally bearing chocolate and coffee), but alas, that’s usually not how it works. We can’t make new friends if we don’t put ourselves out there.

If that thought sounds intimidating, remember: It’s OK to start small. You don’t have to go around spilling your life story to strangers — just push yourself a step or two outside your comfort zone. Ask a co-worker to meet for coffee, swap numbers with the friendly girl on the yoga mat beside you, or share one not-super-scary truth that gives a potential friend a deeper glimpse into your heart.

Proverbs 12:26 tells us, “The righteous choose their friends carefully” (NIV). It’s wise to get to know people gradually, sharing more as the relationship matures and we discover that a person is indeed trustworthy.

Like our Father, we can keep seeking new relationships even after we’ve been hurt. We can pray about our efforts, asking Him to guide us. Not every risk will pay off. Not every vulnerability will be reciprocated, and not every effort will uncover the treasure of a heart-to-heart friend … but some will. And when they do, like our Father — with our Father — we can sing with joy.

Father, thank You for caring about my friendships. Please help me to overcome my hurts and fears so I can remain open to new relationships. Please lead and protect me as I seek the joy of friendship, and thank You for being my most faithful friend. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


As believers, we are called to live like Jesus. But we can’t live like Jesus if we don’t really know how He lived during His time on earth. That’s why we are diving into 30 significant moments of His life and ministry in our new study, Good News: How the Four Gospels Point Us to One Person We Can Trust, starting November 13 in the free First 5 mobile app. Get an in-depth look at the differences and similarities of all four books in one study so you can gain a better understanding of the trustworthiness of Jesus. Click here to order your study guide!



Elizabeth’s new book, When a Friendship Falls Apart: Finding God’s Path for Healing, Forgiveness, and (Maybe) Help Letting Go, helps you navigate the pain of a broken friendship.



Elizabeth would love to be your friend through her newsletter and on Instagram! She sends free Bible studies to her newsletter friends!


Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (NIV).

How have small steps of courage helped you in forming friendships? Share your thoughts in the comments.

© 2023 by Elizabeth Laing Thompson. All rights reserved.

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