Humanity has long known of the importance of friendships. People are social creatures, whether it is a family, a club, a church congregation. For some, even a gang provides the social connection that is necessary, although it is in a negative context. In short, friendships are important to our mental, psychological, and physical well-being. Animals understand the value of having friends, perhaps not in the same language as we do but in packs where each looks out for the other.
Two friends, our greyhound and chow/spitz mix, protecting the yard from squirrels and cats, while looking for the family to return.
Friendship has been on my mind this week because of our visit with a beloved lady who has been a dear friend for over 35 years. Our children were close friends through preschool and elementary school. Although she moved away and our visits were seldom after that, we have remained close through the heart bonds of love in our relationship with the Lord and with each other.
Although she and I have visited together in various locations, I have not seen her son in many years. We were reunited as we stood in their home with his wife and children around us. The years melted away and it was glorious. He explained to his children that when he was young, I was his second mother, Mama-J, and that I had also been his Cub Scout Den Mother! (That made me remember the pumpkin seeds that were strewn all around the family room after the Cubs hollowed out and then carved their Halloween pumpkins. But, since that was a fond memory, the seeds were worth it!) It was wonderful to see him face-to-face.
Scripture speaks of friends in numerous places.
In Exodus 33:11 we find:
“The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.”
Scripture even gives us examples of true friendships that were time-honored and God blessed.
In 1 Samuel we read of the friendship between Jonathan, Saul’s son and presumptive heir in line for the kingdom, and David, the one who God selected as the next King of Israel. At 1 Samuel 20:42 we read:
Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.”
The “Rest of that Story” is found in 2 Samuel 9. After the death of Saul and Jonathan, and after David became King, he looked around to see if anyone of Jonathan’s family had survived the battle and his ascension to the throne. Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s infant son at the time of the war, did survive because he was secreted to safety by his nurse. When the King called to have this sole survivor of Saul’s family brought to him, Mephibosheth rightly thought he was going to die.
Instead, King David brought Mephibosheth into his family, and he ate at the King’s table the rest of his life. Why? Because of the oath between friends that had been made years earlier.
“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”
2 Samuel 9:7.
Sometimes, those we think of as friends do not act in a way that is good for us. An example of this is found in the actions of Ahithophel, King David’s close confidant and friend, who sided with David’s son, Absalom, in his rebellion against David. 2 Samuel 15-17. David’s pain at this betrayal is described in Psalm 55:
If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.
We also see the example of Job’s three, sincere but misguided, friends:
When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.
Often we think of these friends with disgust when we hear of them telling Job to repent of his sin while Job maintained his innocence. And, in the end, God upheld the honor and longsuffering of his servant, Job, expressing anger at the friends.
After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.
Without focusing on their misguided advice, consider what these men did. They came a long distance to comfort Job. They wept for his condition. They sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. They did not speak one word to him because of his great suffering.
Have we done this for our friends? Have we sat at the hospital, even one day let alone seven, comforting them? Have we wept for their condition? Have we extended the gift of service, perhaps holding a hand or putting a cool cloth on a hot forehead? Have we honored them with our presence, sitting quietly and praying for them, without the disruption that constant talk brings? Have we repeatedly prayed for them bringing their condition before our Healing God in earnest prayer?
Jesus spoke of friends frequently in his discourses to the disciples and others around him. One of the most pointed statements is found in John 15:13-14:
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”
Friends … what blessings from God and how important they are to us as we grow, age, mature and remember. And, to be considered a friend of God, when we do what Jesus has commanded us to do, is beyond comprehension. It is a gift of grace, and grace alone.
Praise the Lord that He has procured our salvation through His righteousness. It is in Him that we can call Him friend and that we can stand before the Holy God and can say “Abba, Father”. Praise His Holy Name!
Father, we thank You for the gift of friends. We pray that we would be faithful friends who support and encourage each other in our walk of discipleship. We pray for those who feel that they have no friends, and we ask that you would enable us to befriend them in a meaningful way that reflects your love to them, through Jesus Christ our Lord.