I had one task during last week’s time away — find inspiration for my next article. It happened almost immediately. There on my warm coffee mug and reinforced by the magnet on the refrigerator, not to mention personified in my gracious hosts… friends are the closest thing to angels this side of heaven. I write this while visiting such friends, far off the beaten path in Ocean Shores, Washington.
Have you seen it?
I watched the movie Yesterday, on my flight home. It’s about Jack, a struggling musician who was hit by a bus during a worldwide power outage. When he woke up, even though the world appeared the same, he soon realized things were very different. His tip-off was that he seemed to be the only person who remembered the Beatles. To make a long story short, Jack became an overnight sensation by singing Beatles songs as if he had written them.
The most poignant scene happened when Jack returned to his hometown for his biggest concert ever. He was at the same venue that had cancelled his fledgling gig pre-fame. The people who had rolled their eyes at Jack all those years he had struggled were there, now wanting a piece of him.
When the Chips are Down
But so were Jack’s faithful friends. My eyes got a little misty when I spotted them in the front row. Those same friends, who had supported him all along, showing up to every poorly attended performance, cheering wholeheartedly as if he was great. They waved signs requesting he play the song he’d written before his success. Seeing those friends love and support Jack so well and so consistently impacted me in a way I wasn’t expecting. It was a beautiful picture of true friendship. With nothing to gain, it’s a real friend who chooses to be in your corner when the chips are down.
I teared up as I thought of all the people in my own life who have loved me and my family so well. Those who figuratively show up to sit on the front row whether it’s good, bad or horribly ugly. Friends who have stood by us through all of our hills and especially our long, deep valleys. You know who you are. Those faithful pray-ers, those willing supporters, those kind souls who are eager to listen, encourage and counsel, those friends who boldly still believe and root for our glorious happy ending.
As I picture each of you sitting in the front row of my life, I’m able to stand a little taller and stronger and better. What a gift you are.
What makes a good friend?
Proverbs, considered to be a book about wisdom, has a lot to say about friendship. For starters, it cautions that you won’t make it in life unless you have good and true friends. In other words, wisdom necessitates it. What a bold claim.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
Proverbs 18:24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
I’m fortunate to have thoughtful and loving siblings. But… Proverbs 18:24 makes an important distinction. A friend has the potential to be even better than a sibling. A friend is someone who has chosen you. The word ‘sticks’ is a Hebrew word that is often translated in the Old Testament as cleave. It means a commitment out of love, not obligation.
Friendship adds something unique to your life that isn’t the same from a spouse or family member. In our culture that celebrates romantic love as the utmost, it’s easy to conclude that friends are expendable. Here’s the thing…friendship is not a necessity. It’s the only relationship that is absolutely and intentionally deliberate.
Did you know that at the time when Proverbs was written, sugar wasn’t around yet and food could not be sweetened. Instead, you had to discover sweetness. So it is with a true friend. She must be discovered.
Proverbs 27:9 Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.
In his book, The Four Loves, I like what CS Lewis says about friendship. “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” Friendship requires a foundation, an affinity, a common love that can’t be created, but must be discovered.
During the pandemic this truth became painfully real for me. I, like many others, struggled emotionally and felt alone. Because social media only exasperated those feelings, I stopped connecting there. Eventually, with the Lord’s prompting and guidance, I discovered my tribe, my true friends. And that made all the difference. A true friend is a rare find.
It’s No Wonder…
Being a good friend is HARD; it costs you something. How do we find the strength and power to be a good friend?
We look to Jesus.
In His final conversation the night before He died, Jesus conveyed to His disciples the importance of friendship. His life and death personified what it is to be the ultimate friend. A friend always lets you in and never lets you down.
John 15:15 …I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
(Always lets you in)
John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
(Never lets you down)
Dear Jesus, We praise you for Your word and what it teaches us about friendship. Forgive us for allowing the demands of life to crowd out our friends as if they are expendable. I am so grateful for what my true blue friends have taught me. Even if we no longer live close, I can still see them in the front row. Help me to do and be likewise. Amen.