A few months ago, DeeDee and I got together with some great friends before they moved to the Seattle area. This month is our anniversary, of sorts – the four of us have been friends for 20 years. As we sat and watched our growing kids play together, we reminisced. We had some time to share what the Lord was doing in our lives. We talked about how God was working through both joys and struggles to cause us to grow up in our faith and become more like Jesus Christ. We played, we laughed, and we prayed. Most of all we just enjoyed being together – as friends.
There are some pretty amazing things that God does for us through friendships. He extends His grace to us. He teaches us the power of forgiveness. He reveals His presence to us. He encourages us. He strengthens us. He protects us. He speaks to us. He loves us. And probably much, much more than I could possibly comprehend. God tells us that “a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time” (Prov. 17:17).
Friends are the ones you think of first to share great news. Friends are the ones you call regardless of the time or time zone to share great sorrow. Friends help you discover who God made you to be. Friends help you become who God wants you to be. Friends pray for you. Friends pick you up when you fall and can’t get up. Friends spend time together and make memories together.
Several years ago, my sister and her family moved to Southern California. It was a difficult move for all of us because we’re not only family – we’re friends. Not too long after they moved, our family was able to visit them. In their bathroom, they had hung a picture with these words, “Make new friends and keep the old, One is silver the other is gold.” For whatever reason, maybe because I simply missed them, or maybe because I was very concerned about how they were doing, that picture and phrase stuck with me. Maybe it was what I needed to see in order to know that they were doing okay – making new friends. Years later, that picture helped me as our family moved away from close friends to make some new ones.
In this day and age of social media, the concept of friendship is becoming somewhat blurred. A person can have a thousand or more friends on facebook and still be friendless. Even the new term “facebook friends” lacks a depth that comes from true friendship. Maybe “facebook acquaintances” is more accurate. How will our kids, the next generation, ever figure out what it takes to be a good friend and have good friends when most of their conversations take place on a screen?
Since friends are so important, one of the things I pray about for my kids most often is that they have good friends. Now that we have two teenagers in our home, with one more on the way, I realize how much their friendships, or lack of quality ones, can influence them. Navigating the shallow waters of immaturity and relationships can be treacherous. I praise God for the godly friends that He has brought into their lives and I pray that they become godly, influential friends to others. During these days of having all of our kids still under one roof, I’m grateful that our kids are good friends with each other and pray that continues as they become adults.
It’s been said that to have great friends, you have to be a great friend. Maybe that’s the strangest part. I don’t feel I’m really worthy of the amazing people God has placed in my life as friends, starting with my best friend, D2. I’m too selfish. I’m too impatient. I’m too insecure. I’m too loud. I’m too… well, my friends, you know my issues, and you look past those things to see who God is making me to be.
Even when God moves us or moves our friends far away, we’re still friends. I’m grateful for lifelong friends from the days of my youth. I’m grateful for friends from college scattered around the world. I’m grateful for older friends who serve a dual role as mentors and for younger friends whom I hope to encourage along the way (2 Tim. 2:2). Even though there are some friends that I don’t see or talk to as much as I would like to, we’re still friends, right? And friends, let me remind you that you’re still being used by our Father in Heaven to make me more like His Son – a friend who is closer than a brother.
One of the most wonderful things about friendship is that our Father in heaven wants to be our friend and paid a tremendous price – He gave His Son – to make that possible. By faith, Abraham believed God’s promise and was called “the friend of God” (James 2:23). Jesus, the Son of God, said to His friends, “This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:3). Jesus not only taught about friendship and modeled it, He is our friend. And as friend, He gave us what we needed the most when we deserved it the least at the greatest personal cost. What a friend we have in Jesus!