In Need of a Friend

From April and crosswalk.com
“Will you be my best friend?”

The question - a precious question - came from the sweet lips of a dear little one on her first day of kindergarten. One of my friends’ daughters just wrestled through her first week of school. After having recently moved across country twice, this sweet-as-pie little girl was on the hunt for new friends. With each petition, came the same answer, “I already have a best friend.” Twenty of the thirty kids in the class had all been through preschool together and also, already selected their best friends. As my friend related her daughter’s tearful experience, I couldn’t help but relate. Her mom did too. 

A loved one recently came through a number of soul-scorching circumstances. After relating the pain, the final words bubbled to the surface - and I don’t have any real friends. Not the kind who don’t need you to be strong or polished or pretty for. The kind of friends who don’t need explanations or perfection. The kind who understand and will still take you when you’re a mess. 

It’s not easy finding friends. It doesn’t matter if you’re five or fifty. There are a lot of ingredients that go into true friendship. And if too many of the ingredients are missing, well, it’s just not as good! 

When I was a teenager, I remember telling my grandma about some of my “friends.” She said, “Honey, those aren’t friends. Those are acquaintances. People who treat you like that aren’t real friends.” But they’re all I have, so they must be friends, I thought. Years later, as a youth pastor’s wife, sitting at my pastor’s wife’s house for fellowship and Bible study, I shared a story about a little dinner gathering we had at our house and about something my friend did. I was uncomfortable with what she did, but considering what good friends we were, I just overlooked it. Her actions weren’t the main point of the story just a fringe part of how all the pieces came together. My pastor’s wife looked at me and said, “You said your friend did this? Honey, no friend ever does something like that. What she did is more like what someone looking to get you in your sleep does!” I was shocked at the bluntness of her words. But after turning them over, I’d have to say, she was right. I’d grown up with this young woman, would have given her anything, loved her to pieces and trusted her implicitly. Yet her actions and words were never really that of a friend. And my trust had never been earned, just cheaply, blindly given because I wanted her to be my friend. Like my grandma said, she was truly more of an acquaintance. No matter how much heart we pour into a relationship, sometimes the ingredients just aren’t there to make it a true friendship.

As I prayed for my two loved ones who were in need of a true friend, and remembered my own struggles in the friend department, two things came to mind - 

First, just because we want friendships or emotional intimacy with people, doesn’t mean wanting it makes it safe or healthy. My grandparents used to say, “Be the kind of friend you want have.” Good advice. Sometimes I was that kind of friend, but invested that friendship in unhealthy relationships. We are wise to invest our hearts into healthiness. 

Healthy love and friendship looks like this:

Healthy Friendship says:

If you need me, I’ll be there to the best of my ability. You can count on me to love you without judgement and pray for you through whatever comes your way.

Unhealthy Friendship says:

I’m here to be your rescuer - I know you couldn’t make it through anything without me to pull you through.

Healthy Friendship says:

If you messed up, you need to do what you can to own up to it and make things right. I’ll stick by your side as you go through this because I love you. 

Unhealthy Friendship says:

I will always cover for you. You don’t have to take responsibility for what you’ve done. 

Healthy Friendship says:

I love you, want the best for you and am happy for you when you share sweet times of friendship with other people.

Unhealthy Friendship says:

I am your only friend. You can’t have any other friends beside me - and everyone needs to know that I am your only friend.

Healthy Friendship says:

It’s fun when we like the same things! What joy to share life with you!

Unhealthy Friendship says:

You have to like what I like. (Or I have to like what you like.) We can’t have individuality. We have to only like the same things.

Unhealthy friendships aren’t built on the basis of trust, respect or Biblical love. They serve the purpose of self. Real friendships will help you grow (Proverbs 27:17), spur you on to love God and His people more (Hebrews 10:24) and they will portray sacrifice (John 15:12).

Secondly, Jesus is the only friend we will ever have who won’t disappoint us, won’t entangle us in some unhealthiness and who will consistently love us. 

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you”  (John 15:12-16 NAS).

What an amazing thought to be God’s friend - almost sounds scandalous, doesn’t it? Yet we easily let the value of this friendship slip from our thoughts as we yearn for a friend to sip coffee with, or scrapbook with into the wee hours of the night or for a knowing, understanding, audible voice on the other side of the telephone. Jesus gave His life for us and offers us His friendship. Let’s not miss out on the best friendship of our lifetimes!

It’s normal to want and need community. We were wired that way. Yet it is perhaps just as normal to experience times when we feel the emptiness of true friendship in our lives. I know I’ve gone through seasons of loneliness because God wanted me to just focus on our relationship. Jesus promises to never leave us (Hebrews 13:5); to accept us freely (Romans 15:7); He takes particular interest in the smallest facets of our life - like the hair on our head and the number of tears we’ve cried (Matthew 10:30, Psalms 56:8  and thinks about us constantly (Psalms 139:18). He’s a good friend. The best friend. And He is worth cultivating a deep relationship with!

If you are in a season of loneliness, take heart. Perhaps God just wants you a little more to Himself (for your good). Perhaps He knows what lies ahead and that you need deeper roots. Perhaps He’s protecting you from the unhealthiness of a relationship, even though you are still pining for it. Lean into your best and truest Friend. And in the meantime, I’ll be praying the Lord provides a dear friend for your journey very soon!

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