WEEK 40: THE BLESSING OF FRIENDSHIP
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. Proverbs 27:9
Previously, we looked at how a true friend gives us honest counsel and acts as an accountability partner. But God had so much more in mind for us when He created this wonderful gift called friendship. I often think how generously and compassionately God was thinking the day He came up with the idea of friendship and decided we should have this blessing among all the other blessings He gives us.
It was God’s idea that we should have a friend. We know this because He had His handpicked authors write verses about friendship throughout His Word. If you currently do not have a friend as you are reading this, be encouraged! We all have seasons of being friendless. I am praying for you today that God will soon introduce you to a Christian friend who will make these verses come true for you, too!
In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, God makes it clear that He is in favor of friendship:
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
A friend comes alongside us as and supports us in prayer, encouragement, and tangible action in all we undertake. I have just come from packing lunches for underprivileged children who lack the free school lunches in the summer that keep them going in the school year. One friend was supposed to lead this project, but she was called to a parent’s sickbed in another state. She knew she could count on her friend to step in and help. That friend realized we needed more volunteers and called me. Because I am also a friend, I called my friends and soon we were abundantly staffed for the project. It was a lovely daisy chain of friends helping friends. We made over 300 sandwiches and bagged lunches today! To God be the glory!
A second thing a good Christian friend does is that she strengthens your hand in the Lord’s. One of the most beautiful friendships in the Bible is that of David and Jonathan. At David’s low point, he finds himself alone in the wilderness of Horesh. He is being pursued by King Saul and even being near him brings danger. Despite that, Jonathan, Saul’s son, goes to find David and to encourage him.
1 Samuel 23:16 says, “And Jonathan, Saul's son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God.”
What is interesting about this phrasing is that usually when the Bible mentions strengthening someone’s arms or hands, it is God doing it. Since we seek to daily be more like our Lord, strengthening another’s hand in the Lord’s is demonstrating Christ-like behavior.
One way friends strengthen one another is through studying God’s Word together. If you don’t have a friend you can do this with, I encourage you to join a good Bible study where women get together to study His Word together. My friend Frances and I love getting together to get our nails done or to see a movie, but from time to time, we like to have God’s Word be the focal point of our time together. We will go to a Christian bookstore and buy a Bible study book and do a study together, just the two of us. We both have family and church obligations, so we often cannot find a time to get together in person, but we will have an hour on the phone together on Saturday morning, sharing what we have learned from our study that week. It has strengthened both of us and strengthened our friendship over the last thirty years. We have been iron sharpening iron for each other:
17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Psalm 27:17
Just this week, one of my favorite young friends, just weeks before her wedding, made time for her fiance and her to take me out for a spiffy dinner. She endeared herself further to me during the meal when she lovingly and gently rebuked me for something I laughed at out of discomfort, yet should not have laughed at at all. Now that is a true friend.
Friends also pray for one another. I occasionally receive an email or text from friends letting me know what God has put on their hearts to pray for me. These people are intercessors for me, but they are also my friends, as is described in Job 16:20-21:
20 My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God;
21 on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.
In these verses, Job’s earthly friends have let him down. It is the son of man who is interceding for Him. Earthly friends will let you down, even if they are good people. One key to long-term friendships is to accept this going in and remember His faithfulness during times when friends seem to be uncaring or insensitive to our pain. Because we always have the Son of Man as our intercessor as well as the Holy Spirit, all the pressure of intercession is not on our friends. We are never alone. We may be temporarily let down by earthly friends, but our friend and brother Jesus Christ never ceases praying for us.
I recently experienced nerve pain. Since it was not orthopedic, some friends did not understand, but through it all, I knew that God knew all, saw all, and was compassionate about it all. We cannot expect friends who are human to understand all of our circumstances, and He assures us that we are never alone. I found this verse to be true in that difficult time:
…but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24b
We can enjoy our earthly friends, grow in the Lord with our friends, and serve the Lord with our friends. But it is wonderful to know that the Lord also wants to be our friend. He considered it important for us to know that He did not just look at us as subjects and servants—He looks at us as friends!
12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command.
15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
Talk to the Lord today about His offer of friendship to you and how you feel about it. And if you are in need of a friend who will be iron sharpening iron in your life, ask yourself if you are putting yourself in Bible studies, small groups, and events that would offer opportunities for conversations that might lead to friendship. Also, I have made some of my best lifelong friends through service projects. Serving together is a wonderful way to get to know someone. Also ask yourself if you are limiting God in your narrow view of who might be your friend. Two of my closest friends are almost twenty years my senior, and they are fun, wise women. One great way to find a friend is to be a friend to someone who is in need. Finally, the best way to find a Godly friend is to pray and ask God to send that person into your life in His way and in His time. In the meantime, enjoy the blessing of lots of time alone with the “friend who sticks closer than a brother.”