Friends are a gift from God. But good friendships dont just happen, there is a process involved. I beleive that there are four stages of friendship: the acquaintance stage, the casual friendship, the close friendship and the intimate friendship. Each of these stages must be handled correctly in order for the relationship to be godly. We need God's guidance throughout the process.
The acquaintance stage takes place when you first meet someone. An acquaintance becomes a casual friend when you spend time with the person and ask basic questions. At this phase, we have the responsibility to ask God. "Why has this person crossed my path? Did You send him or her?"
Once you have gone through the acquaintance and casual friendship stages with someone, you use the same standards for establishing a close friendship. Here you decide at what level the relationship should stay. If you desire to bring the person further into your life, then you move to the intimate friendship stage which involves best friend and even marriage.
It is important that we teach ourselves this process. After years of practice, establishing what type of relationship is or isn't right for us, it will help us in our dating relationships. It will even help us know when we've found the person we are to marry. Friends are a great blessings at every stage.