We all would have personal stories to tell of our experiences with friendship. We could also all attest to times when our friends have failed us and we have failed them. The reality is that no one is perfect and that people are guaranteed to let us down. Each of us will most certainly disappoint and hurt others as well. One of my sisters in law says that ‘Friends are the bacon bits in the salad’, bringing an added bonus to our lives. Some count friends as family, believing they ‘just couldn’t live without them’. On a neighbour’s front porch, there is a sign that reads “Friends are welcome any time, Family by appointment.”
Thankfully, the Bible offers us wise counsel on the important topic of friendship. As the image above says, a sweet friendship truly refreshes the soul.
God has created us to live in community. He has wired us for companionship. When chosen carefully, friends can be a great source of joy, comfort, encouragement and healing. But the opposite is also true. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’.” Proverbs 22:22-24 tell us ” Do not make friends with a bad tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.”
Instead, we are exhorted to ” Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Prov. 13:20)
Proverbs 12:26 says that “The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” A good friend is godly and wise. Do you see your friend encouraging you to be the same? I call such friendships as iron sharpening ones- thanks again to the book of Proverbs.
A good friend loves us for who we are and is our encouraging support but is not a flatterer. Again from Proverbs we read that “Better is an open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
Although it is far easier to only hear encouraging words from our friend, they can still be our friend if we cannot agree. They can still be our friend if the need arises to challenge us or question our motives or witness for Christ. (I am not saying here that Christian people can only have Christians who are friends. However, the scriptures are clear about what defines a good and true friend and the activities we engage in amidst our social settings should also glorify Christ.) I have a good friend who I have specifically asked to question me on how long I go between catching up with others and to send me a text regularly in order to keep me accountable. You see, I would class myself as an introverted person and like my own company. I’m also a contented home body and can go for days without seeing or speaking with anyone outside my own family and be perfectly fine doing so. But I also know that prolonged times in this semi hermit- like way of being is not what the Lord has called me to be. And I’m certain that this is true for any one else who may be similar in this area. So I have a particular friend ( and also my husband) who I have been vulnerable with to help me in this aspect of my life.
(Just as a side point before I go on, people often wonder HOW MANY friends should one have? I believe Jesus is our best example. He had 3 disciples in His ‘inner circle’, Peter, James and John. They were the ones to whom He revealed Himself in the transfiguration on Mount Hermon as well as watching nearby as He prayed in Gethsemane. Then there were the other 9 disciples with the 4 gospels in the New Testament dedicated to their lives with Jesus for the 3 years of His earthly ministry. He also had others He ‘sent out’ and would ‘report’ back to Him. We read of the family of Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha and how Jesus would stay in their house. We also know that there were a number of women who followed Him and assisted Him during His ministry years. Personally speaking, I don’t see it possible to have more than 3-5 close friends to do life with. These may be school friends with a long, shared history, church family or even work colleagues If you are married, your spouse should also be in this category.Such people know you well, are there for you and you for them and you trust with your struggles and secrets, sharing life’s special moments together. There is also mutual effort to see each other. Then, you have others like church family, work colleagues, neighbours, family friends, ministry partners and so on. I think balance and sense coupled with praying for discernment and wisdom are keys here.)
“A good friend loves AT ALL TIMES.” (Proverbs 17:17a) I believe this aspect about true friendship is the foundation as well as the most fundamental of all. If your friends only seem to hang around when all is well but scatter at any sign of difficulty whatever the magnitude, they are not your friend. It’s been said that we find out who our true friends are during our darkest moments. I can certainly attest to this. It hurts to the very core of your being when someone you considered your good friend abandons you in your hour of need. You feel bewildered and betrayed. And as a result, you struggle to trust again. You become wary or even cynical of others. You would rather have no friends at all than risk being let down again.
But we have a Friend who is better than any others. His name is JESUS. Scripture calls Him ‘the friend that sticks closer than a brother.’ He accepts us unconditionally. He is always available. He is always ready to listen. And we know that “Greater love has no man than to lay down His life for His friends. ” Jesus says that we are His friends if we do what He asks. He calls us to “come to Me all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
When you can rest in the assurance of His friendship, you can open your heart again to earthly friendships and ask Him to help you choose the right friends into the future.
There is an old hymn named -“What a friend we have in Jesus.” How true! Have a listen to Paul Baloche’s version on YouTube and be blessed in the knowledge you a have Friend in Jesus.