By Ashley Faith
At its most ideal, friendship adds beauty to our days. It seeks out the best in us. It flexes and grows and isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions. It provides comfort. It can be found in our best moments, and it’s present in our worst. Friendship teaches us to love unconditionally. When it fails, it teaches us to forgive. When we have a friend, we feel as though we have a gift to reopen each day. If we lose that friend, we feel the lingering ache.
I’ve spent the better part of my life enjoying the blessings of friendship. As a child I played with my friends. As a teenager I sorted through the emotional highs and lows with them. In my 20s we hammered out our convictions, and the 30s brought us a closer look at the world and the troubles of our time. Now in my 40s, I find myself as convinced as ever of the benefits of friendship. And though I’ve lost a few friends to circumstance and differing opinions, and though it was quite painful, I would be a lesser person if they hadn’t been in my life.
Friendship is as old as time and as cherished. We can trace its roots back to the Garden of Eden when God visited with Adam and Eve and in Exodus when he spoke to Moses “face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11). Divine inspiration placed the word friend in the Bible. It flowed from God and was demonstrated by Jesus, our magnificent Savior. Bible commentator Matthew Henry noted: “Christ takes believers to be his friends. He visits them and converses with them as his friends, bears with them and makes the best of them, is afflicted in their afflictions, and takes pleasure in their prosperity; he pleads for them in heaven and takes care of all their interests there.”
David and Jonathan or Ruth and Naomi offer wonderful examples of friendship done well. But there are others such as Esther, who showed herself a friend to the Jews when she risked her life to save them, and the four men in the New Testament who lowered their ailing friend through a hole in the roof just to get him close to Jesus. Elisha pledged his devotion to Elijah, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the two on the road to Emmaus were friends. How lovely that Jesus joined up with them on their journey. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). Such is the promise of Christian friends, that whenever they gather in Christ’s name, he is also there.
There is another beautiful friendship in the Bible between Peter and John that I hadn’t previously considered. Matthew Henry described it this way: “Peter and John seem to have had a peculiar intimacy after Christ’s resurrection more than before. The reason of which (if I may have liberty to conjecture) might be this, that John, a disciple made up of love, was more compassionate to Peter upon his fall and repentance, and more tender of him in his bitter weeping for his sin, than any other of the apostles were, and more solicitous to restore him in the spirit of meekness, which made him very dear to Peter ever after.” How compassionate and beautiful are the friendships that reach out to us when we’ve fallen—they lift us up and keep holding on.
What was God’s plan for creating this beautiful relationship on earth? Friends listen when we need an ear. Friends hug us when we are broken and hold our hand when we are lost. Friends pray for us. No one is perfect, but when we find a faithful friend, she almost always gives her best. Knowing we have a friend on our side makes this world a less trying place.
Sisters in Christ help me keep my focus on the Lord. When we’re frustrated with our husbands, when our children push our buttons, when work both in and out of the home demands too much, when we’re physically ill, when we’re mentally weary, when the devil tries to steal our joy and make us live in defeat, we remind each other that we have Jesus, the “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
Clearly we see the value of friendship in adversity, but its usefulness goes far beyond our times of struggle. It blooms in the sunshine of our life—when the day is peaceful and the night is full of sweet rest. Friendship is the unexpected card in the mailbox, the bouquet of spring flowers, the thoughtful gift, and the time spent together just because. Our conversation confirms our connection while pointing our hearts to the one who gave us life. “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice” (Proverbs 27:9).
An added bonus, true friends can speak honestly and directly with each other. A friend knows us and is invested in our life; consequently she may be the one person who can reach us when no one else can—when our mind is closed off, when we are in danger of walking down the wrong path. “Wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:6a). This kind of exchange must be handled with care, and sometimes space and time will be required afterward. But a true and godly friend loves us enough to risk the loss if it’s for our best. If she has been trusted, even if we think she’s wrong, we should at least consider her advice.
With all that’s right about friendship, there are a few cautions. The Bible urges us in 2 Corinthians 6:14 not to be “yoked together with unbelievers.” While having all types of acquaintances is a positive, it is important that our closest confidants be of the same spiritual mindset. That doesn’t mean we’ll agree about everything—it does mean that sisters and brothers in Christ will help us follow the path of faith because “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17). Truly we can be influenced for the good or for the bad by our friends. So we should surround ourselves with those who have a positive effect on our thinking and lives.
We must also keep our priorities straight. God always deserves our first praises. No friend should come before him. Doing so leads to unrealistic expectations and disappointment. It’s never been as clear to me as it is now how much friendship originated with God. It’s his concept, his creation, his gift to us. The fact that he extends friendship to us is almost too much to comprehend. May each of us strive to grow closer to him and, just like Abraham, be called “God’s friend” (James 2:23).
I’ve often heard people say that the relationships in their lives matter most. People, not things, are treasured. I believe with all my heart this is true. When my time on this earth draws to a close, if my mind is able, I will cherish the faces of my family, and along with them I will remember my beloved friends.
Ashley Faith is a nurse and freelance writer in New Lexington, Ohio.