Faith and Friendships

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by Rachelle Williams

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

You’ve probably heard this scripture once or twice at a wedding, and it’s perfectly applicable there. However, in context, it’s referring to a rich, yet very lonely, man. He was filled with jealousy and he consumed himself in.. himself. He labored heavily to build his riches.. but he was alone. He had no one to share the rewards with. He was burdened with struggles and he had no happiness. The scriptures say that it was a “pursuit of the wind.”

There is significant emphasis in the scriptures about the importance of having friendships. After all, the “church” is ultimately the body of believers meant to gather together to encourage each other spiritually. It was never meant to be a formality on Sundays and Wednesdays to go and sing a few songs, read scriptures, and then part ways. The Lord knew we needed relationships. He knew we needed to surround ourselves with like-minded people that would walk along side us, lifting us up when we fell and likewise, doing the same for them.

I have a good many people that I would consider friends and I’m very thankful for those people, but most of those friendships are surface level. If I’m struggling or feeling weak, I want something deeper than that.

The Bible calls it a companion.
In school, we called them BFFs.
Today, it’s just “bestie”.
But whatever you call it, I was missing that. I had a checklist in my head for my bestie search. I wanted a friend that loved the Lord, obviously. Someone with a good sense of humor. Preferably someone close to my age with kids close to my kids’ ages. Someone that watches Hallmark Christmas movies non stop in December. And of course, someone that can come to my house after the kids have destroyed it all and have no judgement. But in reality, most of these things are not what will build a solid foundation for a friendship.

Here’s what I’ve found that the Bible says about being a good friend.

Be there for each other.
No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13

This isn’t quite literally talking about dying for someone. It’s self-sacrifice. It’s about not being consumed in yourself, like the rich man in Ecclesiastes. In a world that says you have to look after yourself and take care of yourself first, the Bible says to lay that all down. Sometimes being there for each other means going out of our way, inconveniencing ourselves, doing things we don’t necessarily want to do. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be self-sacrifice.

Strengthen each other.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17
When you have close relationships, you undoubtedly have an influence on each other. We need friendships where we’re provoking each other to be better and stronger and to continually grow in our faith.

Be an encourager.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

We all have insecurities. I know I’m full of them. Sometimes, we just need to hear “good job” or “well done.” It’s okay to need that. But it’s easy to get caught up in being discouraged that you’re not getting the encouragement you need and forgetting to give it to others. If you find yourself in a place of needing a pat on the back, go ahead and give it to someone else. They’re probably needing it just as much.

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Give good counsel, even when it hurts.
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. – Proverbs 27:5-6

This one is tough. But tough love is necessary. Being a good friend doesn’t mean agreeing with each other all of the time. It’s not constant praise. It doesn’t mean being quiet when you know your friend is wrong. It means loving them enough to give them good advice, from someone they respect, if it will be beneficial for their life.

Offer grace.
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness,and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity. – Colossians 3:12-14

I think a lot of friendships fail because of a lack of grace. When you’re close to someone, you’re naturally going to be more aware of their flaws. Everyone has them. Some people do better at hiding them, but the closer you get, you’re going to find them. We have to remind ourselves that we have them too. So afford each other room for error. Have realistic expectations in your friendships and remember that we’re human. If not for the cross, we’d all be worthy of death. Jesus was the truest friend of all and we’re called to forgive as he forgave and to love as He loved.

I want to challenge everyone to press into relationships. Go past the surface to something deeper. We need each other. We need companions that will be there for more than two Thursdays out of the month and that will last even when our kids are no longer preschoolers and we’re no longer in MOPS. We’re all looking for friendships or else we wouldn’t be here. So get out of your comfort zone and reach out to someone. Don’t be the lonely man (or woman) that spent his life in a pursuit of the wind.

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