What would we do without them? What do people who live solitary lives do without them? I cannot imagine life without the many people who have touched my life in so many ways by their friendship. Though years and miles may separate us, there are so many with whom we have shared love and laughter, sorrows and sighs and who are still as dear to us as ever. In so many ways our lives are made richer and fuller by having people whom we treasure in our lives. I have experienced the warmth and support of good friends throughout my life – and especially through the longs days and months of this year.
Solomon, in his Proverbs has much to say about friends and friendship…
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17).
Some people with whom we associate and whom we call “friends” are really “fair-weather” friends. Their friendship last only as long as the good times. In this proverb, the brother who is there for us in the difficult times is the friend who loves us in the bad times just as much and just as surely as in the good. Those who abandon us in times of adversity are no friends at all. They are only interested in what they can get from us.
“Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.” (Proverbs 19:6).
We must avoid seeking the friendship of those who are only interested in themselves. We will invariably find ourselves abandoned when we have nothing more to give them. This is the danger of courting the friendship of the rich and popular people of this world. There is danger in being indiscriminate in the choice of friends – even the possibility of our own ruin.
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24).
It is much better to have one true friend who will stick with us than to have many professed friends who will flee at the first sign of trouble. The true friend will be there to support and comfort us when things are going wrong all about us. He will also offer helpful criticism or rebuke when we are wrong.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6).
False friends will not tell us the truth about ourselves for fear of making us angry with them. The true friend will not hesitate to do whatever is necessary for our good even if it is hard to do and unpleasant to both of us. As pleasant as the company of a friend is, this faithful, constructive help, though painful, makes his friendship even more valuable.
“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” (Proverbs 27:9).
The wise man advises that we be discriminate in our choice of friends.
“Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,” (Proverbs 22:24).
If we become friends with an angry, wrathful man we very likely will become like him. There is that danger that we will be influenced by our companions rather than influencing them. The danger of being influenced by the wrong kind of company applies in many different situations. Paul warned Christians in 1 Corinthians 15:33 of the danger of being corrupted from the truth of the resurrection by bad company. (Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals”). If we can be influenced by the anger of another, we may sympathize with him and join him in the inappropriate or even violent expression of his anger or wrath. We can do great harm to others through such sympathetic actions.
Oftentimes a friend can be more reliable to us in times of trouble than a family member.
“Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away.” (Proverbs 27:10).
One should develop friendships beyond immediate family. Such friendship is to be treasured and cultivated. Even though one might think that a family member would be there for us, in many instances that is just not true. A true personal friend or a long-time family friend can often be relied on more than one of blood relation. Many times these literally are closer and of greater comfort and support to us in times of trouble than a family member.
As good as it is to have earthly friends and as wonderful as it is that those friends are faithful to the Lord, there is one whose friendship we should desire, cherish and cultivate more than any other.
“The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.” (Psalm 25:14).
The greatest friendship of all is that of one who will sacrifice himself for us. The one who has sacrificed the most for us, of course, is Jesus who literally died for us to save us from our sins. He, as did the Father, loved us so much that he gave himself for us that we should not perish, but have everlasting life. There is no greater love than this. There has been no greater gift than this. There is no greater friend than he.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:12-15).
How do we respond to friendship? Certainly not by taking the love of a friend and giving nothing in return! We respond by being a friend. We give of ourselves in return for the gift of friendship. If we are a friend to our friends, we are there for them in their times of trouble. We support them as they are supportive of us. We encourage them as they have encouraged us. As pleasant as it is to share their company in the good times, it is far better to be with them when they need us.
How do we respond to the friendship of the Lord? He said that we do it through doing what he commands. The command to obey him is not a selfish demand upon his part. Like a true friend, he is only interested in what is best for us. All his commandments are for our good as were his commands to Israel of old.
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.” (Deuteronomy 10:12-14).
When we obey his commands we are receiving the love of the greatest friend mankind has ever had and the greatest friend we personally could ever have. All the benefits of the whole realm of his rule are ours when we do so.
No, I can’t imagine life without friends. They add so much texture to the fabric of life as we weave our lives together with them in such rich and intricate patterns. They are such a source of joy as we share with them the pleasures and blessings of this life. They are a source of so much strength as they help us to bear the burdens of life, lightening the load that would be otherwise unbearable. Thank God for friends! Hold them close! Celebrate them!