Last week, I shared a bit about my unique position right now, having just moved, to start a series on friendship.
Well, there are so many aspects of friendship, making friends, keeping friends, being a friend, and being without friends. But all of these conversations we could have stem from something: there are underlying reasons - Biblical reasons - why we all need friends.
I'm not saying there aren't seasons of our lives when God may remove a friendship for some other purpose. He can and does. Sometimes He clearly uses our absence of a friend, our loneliness, to drive us to a deeper relationship with Himself. He is, you know, always calling us to deepen our friendship with Him first and foremost.
But assuming you are in an average season of life, walking with God, there are reasons why you and I should put energy into pursuing and growing friendships. (I'm sure there are really good books on this subject, by the way. I'm not taking these truths from one; they are just from my heart and what I've learned in my life.)
Reason 1: We were designed to live in relationship.
When God created Adam, for the first time, He said, "This is not good," because Adam was alone (Genesis 2:18). So God gave him company. It was Eve, and she was not only his wife, but also his friend. The relationship between Adam and Eve was the first reflection, or symbolic relationship, of the one between God and his people. Never for a moment were we meant to be isolated.
God had a plan, here. We don't get to decide what's best for us. Of course we need regular solitude to refresh our spirits with the Lord. But in a broader sense, we were never, ever meant to be fully independent in this life. And God knows that that plan is harder for some personalities to navigate than others. Even in the absence of human friendship, we were created to be in intimate connection with God. Sometimes it's called fellowship. Just like He wants us to enjoy fellowship with Him, He urges us to pursue friendship and thus find fellowship with others. Even if that pursuit feels difficult and risky.
And I believe that because mankind's bent is to want to go our own way (let's face it, being alone and independent is often easier, safer), He is always pressing in, teaching us how to deepen our interdependence with Him and with His family. Jesus modeled this for us, and says in John 15:15,
"I no longer call you servants, because a master doesn't confide in his servants. Now you are my friends."
Friends are interdependent. Friendship is important to Jesus, and He is a perfect friend. He teaches us about friendship by the way He is a friend, in the Bible, and in our lives.
Reason 2: We need to be encouraged and exhorted.
People are sort of lazy. We love comfort and peace, and when things don't go our way, when we get uncomfortable, we tend to want to fold. We give up and withdraw and easily crumble. God knew that. That's why He puts other loving people around us to encourage and exhort us to try, try again. To choose well, to take heart.
I need that! Just yesterday, I threw out a lifeline to a Godly friend, because I knew I was crumbling in one corner of my heart. Her words of truth and encouragement made ALL the difference. Had I stayed isolated and independent, my feelings and thoughts would have ruined my day, and maybe several.
"Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near."
This verse says to me that some people neglect their friendships. Another version says, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing." Are you in the habit of NOT getting together with friends? It can become a habit to withdraw, to stay isolated. And it's not healthy. The verse implies that the people who are in the habit of neglecting their friendships will not have the emotional and mental nourishment they need from others to stay in the game and finish strong.
Reason 3: Sometimes we need to be held up by the locked arms of our friends.
I can't help but think of Russell Crowe here, and the scene in Gladiator when all the warriors have locked their arms to stay standing against their foes. Life is super hard, if you've noticed. Sin in this world delivers serious blows to our hearts, our identity, and our whole perspective. We need friends because during those times we get knocked down, a friend has our back and pulls us back up.
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
This verse brings up the concept of strength being found in numbers. It implies, to me, that life involves fighting. It's abstract, but we know in our hearts this is true. All things worthwhile must be fought for. Stuff like staying married, raising children, and just living a life of integrity requires constant battle against our culture, sin, and our own flesh. And how defenseless are you if you're fighting those fights alone? The single sheep who has wandered from the flock is always the first to get picked off.
We need friends to lock arms with us and watch our backs.
Reason 4: We need wisdom.
The bottom line here is that I need ideas. Sometimes my judgment during trials and conflicts is seriously questionable. My emotions get my own ideas all mixed up, and I can miss the wisest choice in a given situation. Wise, well-chosen friends are a crucial source of ideas when we need them most. I am not exaggerating when I say "crucial." I don't even want to think about where I'd be today had I not followed the wise advice of friends in difficult times in my past. This is perhaps particularly true in the area of our beliefs, about God, about others, and about ourselves. Don't forget that the Prince of Lies is working overtime to pull you away from all that is right and good. When your vision is clouded, you need the clear thinking, discerning advice of a friend.
"As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend."
"He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm."
And here's the thing. Those friends of yours need your encouragement, your loyalty, your wisdom too. In those critical moments, they need your clear thinking, your wisdom and your love when they are clouded. They need you to pick them up and fight for them when they are too broken. And they need grace and truth in all of life's challenges. By neglecting our friendships or the pursuit of new ones, we are not only robbing ourselves of nourishment, but we are robbing our friends of the same.
Okay pals, soak those reasons in. Are there any that you wrestle with? Any areas that sparked a little resistance in your spirit? Do not underestimate the power of how your BELIEFS about friendship will influence your actions from here on out, no matter what I or anyone else says.
There is an element of obedience here, a trust that we each need to have in a God who designed us in a particular way for particular reasons. When I would rather be isolated or just feel too lazy to pursue others, I need to instead act on my BELIEF that God has plans for me and my heart that can only unfold inside of friendship.
Have a great day.