Friends Hurt with Each Other

At the kernel of every close relationship are the marks of friendship.   As we cultivate friendship we strengthen the relationship.   This is seen in marriage and parenting, too.   It is good for us then to identify these qualities, and understand and practice them. 

Some basic characteristics of friendship include comforting, serving, transparency, expressing their hearts, and trust

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Another evidence of friendship is expressed by simply showing up and expressing heartfelt compassion when the other is hurting. 

To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend…”   (Job 6:14)   

Job was going through incredible pain and suffering, physically and emotionally, from the losses he had experienced.    Because his three friends didn’t understand the depth of his sorrow and hurt they questioned his feelings and the expression of his despair.  They lacked pity and compassion.  

When our heart is broken at such a deep place and we feel no one can fully understand (and usually they can’t in every way) we yearn to know that someone just cares and feels our sorrow.

Again we see Job’s heart cry to his friends for mercy as he struggles with his loss and questions – “Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me.”   (Job 19:21)

When C.S. Lewis’ wife died of bone cancer he wrote a memoir about his personal journey, “A Grief Observed“.   It is a raw, but helpful book for those experiencing the loss of someone very close.   He wrote, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear“.   When we grieve we discover emotions and feelings we have never known; we are utterly unprepared for it.  

God comforts us (II Corinthians 1:3).  He also gives us friends to minister comfort to us in these hours.   Whenever a true friend is in trouble and hurting, though you may be many miles apart, his  heart aches, too. 

I read that the Indians in North America didn’t have a written alphabet, but their language and vocabulary was broad and eloquent.    The French and English reported that their translation of the word “friend” was “one who carries my sorrows on his back“.   

Here are a few suggestions to minister to your friends in times of suffering:

  • Be there.  Just show up.   The best thing Job’s friends did was to get together and be there for him when he was hurting. 

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.”    (Job 2:11)    

Notice the word “appointment“.  They set a specific time;  they intentionally came to “mourn with him and to comfort him“.   

Sometimes when a friend is in trouble people stay away; perhaps they fear they won’t say the right thing.  However, just being there speaks as loud as anything you can say; even better.  Our presence is consolation and shows we love them and care. 

The night before my Mom’s funeral service we received friends.   It was a cold and rainy night; it wasn’t easy to get out.  The date was December 22, a few days before Christmas; a most inconvenient time of year to get out – and in bad weather.   I stood with my brother and sister as we greeted old friends, people very precious to us.   Many had driven a long way just to speak to us for thirty seconds.   Who would do that?   Why do that?   They were our friends. 

Friends love you and want to comfort you in your suffering.   They know a hug and a compassionate look in the eye speaks volumes. 

Friendship shines brightest in times of suffering and loss.

  • Weep with them.   When Job’s friends first saw his physical condition, it touched them so deeply they wept for him.

And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept….”   (Job 2:12)

The word “compassion” means “to suffer with“.  It is initiated by a comprehension of a need or state of suffering.   The Bible often states that “Jesus (or other people) saw” a problem and then “were moved with compassion“.    (See Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34; I John 3:17).  

Weeping follows seeing and then considering the suffering, pain and feelings of the other person.   We are bereft of compassion because we are shallow in our thinking and selfish in our willingness to identify with the hurts of others.    Friends don’t do this.   They are thoughtful and compassionate. 

  • Be quiet.   Friends don’t need to say “just the right thing” when the other is broken.  No words are necessary.  A hug or a pat on the shoulder will do for the moment.  A true friend doesn’t feel the need to explain why something happened – he can listen.  (We don’t know all of the reasons tragedy happens anyway).   Talking about the “why” of a painful situation without genuinely feeling their loss is cruel to the one that hears such talk.  The word “listen” has the same letters as the word “silent“.  

This is where Job’s friends made their mistake.   Their words to him were after they had sat with him for a while were laced with criticism and judgment.    Initially, they simply ministered by their presence and their lack of advice. 

So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.”   (Job 2:13)    It says, “they sat down with him“.  Present, but not advisors.   Quiet, but not indifferent. 

It’s easy to come up with a solution when you are not the one experiencing the difficulty.   John Galsworthy said, “Idealism increases in direct proportion to your distance from the problem.” 

I’ll never forget as we drove up to the open grave of my Mom, two days before Christmas, a wonderful gift awaited.    My wife was driving, I was in the front seat beside her, my daughter in the back, as we had followed the hearse into the cemetery.   The funeral had been long – almost two hours.   All of her children had spoken and most of the grandchildren.  

Though I knew I would see her again, my heart was shattered for the moment.   She had taken great care of me and influenced my life on so many levels.   As we pulled to a stop beside the grave, at the top of a small hill 100 feet away, I was surprised to see something.  It proved to be a sacred gift. 

I recognized two friends from my school days.   We rarely see each other, but there they were waiting, side by side.   I don’t know how long they had been there, but there they were. 

After the committal service the family stayed for a while and then began to gather in the cars to return to church for lunch.   But I couldn’t leave yet.  For whatever reason I am very sentimental and feel deeply – moments and events are sacred to me.  I wasn’t going to leave until they finished everything at the burial site.   I felt it was a duty of sorts.   Perhaps it was because I was her oldest and had been with her the longest.  

Soon it was just Paula, myself, and the cemetery workers filling the hole in the ground with the dirt, a cold wind blowing on all of us.  My two friends from school days were there, too.  They stayed.    I stood and watched the final tasks and didn’t say a word to anyone.

At one time these two buddies and myself sat in classrooms together, rode in the same cars, sat down in Hogan’s Groceries, drank cokes and ate candy bars and a lot of other things that kids do.   Now, we were in our 60’s, in a time of shared sorrowing.   They were helping me to carry my pain, just by being there. 

As the final part of the grave was being filled, one of my friends walked over and stood by me and put his hand on my shoulder.   He never said a word.   He just stood there beside me, a strong hand on my shoulder.    We were both quiet in school, not many knew who we were.  But he sought me out in my need on that day and he was a giant to me. 

A broken-hearted man with two old friends offering the consolation of their presence.   And I will never forget them or that moment.    That is what friends do for each other.    And that is what families are to do for one another.  

In the family circle there will be pain and loss.   Sometimes we won’t have any words; there are no explanations on this side of Heaven.   That will come later. 

But we can be there for our children, weep with our wife or husband, and be quiet and listen when they are hurting.     This is the way we show we care.    We need friends in our home. 

 

Posted in adversity, bearing burdens, Discouragement, Encouragement, Family Issues, Friends, friendship, Married and Friends, sorrow | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friends Trust Each Other

Good relationships have the earmarks of friendship.  The better the friendship, the stronger the relationship.   That includes the family.   Husbands and wives.   Parents and children (as the children grow the relationship transitions to a friendship).  Brothers and sisters.   God intends for us to be friends.

Taken at one of our favorite places – Orange Beach, Alabama. We have so many precious memories that we will carry for the rest of our lives. I love my family. They grow up so fast. These were special days for Paula and me.

A foundational quality of any relationship is trust.  When trust is broken the relationship is broken and cannot be whole until trust is reestablished.  Solid and enduring friendships are based on character, not just personality.   Applying the principles of friendship to our marriages would make them healthier.

What are some of the marks of trust in a friendship that can be measured in a marriage?   In parent and child relationships?    Here are three actions that communicate that you are trustworthy to others.

  • We communicate trust by being loyal with our words.

Trust is broken when we are not trustworthy with our words.  That not only means being a truth-teller and keeping promises, but also involves what we say when the other is not present.

Friends take their words to each other seriously.   They don’t speak negatively about each other or allow others to do so.     Friends are loyal; this includes our words about each other when we speak to others. 

A pastor friend asked a well-known preacher what his greatest disappointment had been in his ministry of over fifty years.   He quickly responded, “The betrayal of a close friend”.  Why did he not have to think about the answer?  The pain of betrayal was still remembered.    We remember the times when trust was violated.   It makes us hesitant to trust again.  This is why we need God’s grace to help us forgive and to love again in the future.   I wonder how many new friendships we have forfeited because we have refused to ever “get burned again“. 

Always defend the name of your friend.  It is common for those that have served in political administrations, after leaving their time of service,  to write a memoir.  Frequently it will include something sensational that was negative; because people want to read such things, it is included to help sell the book.     These “kiss and tell” books involve matters that were spoken in confidence, never intended for public ears.   I have little respect for those that do those things.

I prove my love to my family by how I speak about them to other people.  They need to know that I am loyal to them  – and that they can trust me, when they are not present.

Blaise Pascal wrote, “I maintain that, if everyone knew what others said about him, there would not be four friends in the world.”   The fact that he wrote this almost 400 years ago shows that human nature doesn’t change.  Our hearts are wicked and we have a tendency to be disloyal when we are under pressure or it serves our interests.   Or we just want to run others down to attempt to build ourselves up.

Only God can help us with this.

Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”   (Psalm 141:3)

  • We communicate trust by keeping confidences.

This is similar to the above thought, but a little different.  Confidences involve those things that our friends share and specifically ask us to keep private and confidential.

When someone shares a confidence they trust one to keep it.  Often it involves a disappointment, failure, or personal matter.   They are trusting us with sensitive  information.

A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.”   (Proverbs 11:13)

Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.”   (George Washington)

Confidences in the family are often broken later or to that “one special person” the individual knows.  It’s like the friend that had shared a private matter with a friend and later discovered others knew of it.  He went to his friend and asked him if he had shared that information.   His buddy said, “Yes, but only to one person and I told them not to tell it to anyone else“.    And so it goes – and the circle widens.

In the family circle we spend so much time with each other we observe our loved ones in the best and worst of times; we see each other when our guards are down.  Our proximity and time spent with family increases the number of these “confidential” moments that shouldn’t be shared.   This includes times we are hurt by words or failed promises by parents or by the bad treatment of a sibling.

After this happens (and it will, your family is composed of sinners), we have a choice.  We can forgive them  – or we can tell others about the failures of our family.   Friends don’t do that with each other because they love each other.   Neither should family.   This is a betrayal and erodes trust – which is fundamental to a good relationship.

The Bible says that love “…thinketh no evil…” (I Corinthians 13:8).

And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”   (I Peter 4:8)

I have purposed that I will not share negative things about my family and be loyal to them in the way I talk about them.  I want to be loyal to them in my words.   I want my children, my wife, my brother and sister – and my parents who are now in Heaven, to know that I will always speak well of them.   I would be grateful for them to give me the same gift as often as I have stumbled and offended them.

Every man should have a fair-sized cemetery in which to bury the faults of his friends.”  (Henry Ward Beecher)

  • We communicate trust in not judging the motives of others.

This is when a relationship is mature and love is strong.    Rather than immediately questioning motives (what a cynic does) we give margin and the benefit of the doubt.   I had rather be proven wrong about a person when I trusted them than to assume wrong about them when they did no wrong.   The way we see people influences the way we treat them.

God’s Word says that love “…beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things…”   (I Corinthians 13:7).

In the spring of 1977 I was sitting in my New Testament Survey college class and my teacher and mentor, Dr. Wymal Porter, said, “Never judge a person’s motives; you don’t know what they areThat is God’s job and He will do that on judgment day.

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts…”  (I Corinthians 4:5)

That was a life-changing moment for me.   I told the Lord that I didn’t want to do that and began to seek to purge that out of my heart with the help of God.   I haven’t succeeded fully, but I have seen growth.

Our corrupt nature tends to judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions.   With God’s help we can reverse that and begin to judge ourselves by our actions and others by their intentions.   Yes, it is important to hold people accountable for their actions, but I also think it would be a better place to live if we extended mercy and didn’t think that we knew exactly what was going on in the mind and heart of the other person.   We can do great harm when we always act on that premise.

Close friends give people some space and believe in them when others do not.  That is what Barnabas did for Saul and he became the great Apostle Paul.

I have not always done this well with my wife and children.  There have been too many times when I have assumed what I thought what was happening or what they were thinking and came to a faulty conclusion.   And I hurt them.   I began to ask God to help me to slow down, to be quiet, and to listen.   It made an amazing difference.

Mercy

One of the great words in the Bible is “mercy“.   God loves and delights in mercy.  I’m so glad for that.

Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.”   (Micah 7:18)

There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.”   (Richard Sibbes)

It’s true.   Friends trust one another.   We need God’s help to do this because He is the only faithful and true One.   May our friendships, marriages and homes reflect the heart of Christ.   It will transform our relationships.

Perhaps your trust has been shattered by someone in your family.   Bring your brokenness to Jesus and He can mend your broken heart and help you to start anew.  That is the purpose of the cross and the empty tomb.   It is where new life begins.

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”   (Ephesians 4:32)

Our Savior is the only One we can fully trust. If He lives in your heart then He will give you the desire and ability to cultivate trustworthiness in your life – because He is trustworthy.   This is one of the qualities that makes Him such a dear Friend.    It will strengthen your friendships – and your family relationships.

 

 

Posted in character growth, Christ-centered marriage, Family Issues, friendship, Growing marriage, Mercy, Trust | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friends Express Their Feelings to Each Other

A close friend had been sick and in the hospital and was rapidly declining.  My wife and I went to visit him.   We didn’t know it would be the last time we would ever see him when we walked into his room, but he seemed to know it.

He was especially tender and his words were measured as he recounted many things we had done in the past.   There was a lot of laughter and some tears.   Just before we left I prayed for him and we clasped hands.   When I finished he continued to hold his hands around mine, and expressed a heartfelt thanks for our friendship.   When I walked out of the room I knew it was the last time I would see him until we were in Heaven together.   He passed away the next day.

Something about the ending of life brings clarity and an urgency to express the deepest feelings of our heart.

I’ve seen it happen often as a pastor, where unsaid words are finally shared.  An affirmation, an apology, a sacred remembrance is mentioned, a blessing that has been neglected is finally offered.   Tears are usually shed.  I’ve heard regrets spoken, too, in funeral homes standing beside coffins because of words that were never shared. 

These experiences have motivated me to tell my loved ones and friends how I feel about them – today, before it’s too late.   I want them to know that I love them and so I had rather be free with my words rather than wish later I had told them.

Friends share their hearts, at least they desire to, and it is the shrinking of time that often forces those unsaid words that have been neglected.   Husbands and wives, the best of friends, ought to do so on a regular basis.

One of the positive qualities  of the businessman, Boaz, in the Bible, is how he freely communicated his heart with his coworkers.   He cared about them and blessed them verbally.

  • He greeted those whom he employed with a blessing“And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD be with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless thee.” (Ruth 2:4)    As I imagine this scene I hear him say it cheerfully.   They responded with a blessing in return to him.   Perhaps they learned it from his frequent example of kind words.
  • He was attractive to Ruth (his future wife) because of his words“Then she said, Let me find favour in thy sight, my lord; for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens.” (Ruth 2:13)    She specifically mentions the nature of his words as what stood out to her.   (That is not only important to a woman, but also to a man).

Two of the most unselfish servants of God I have ever known, Hank and Leota Geigle. They have truly lived their lives for others.

One of the ways a husband or wife can tell when their partner begins to become indifferent toward them is by the tone of their voice.

Whenever we see someone’s countenance light up when we approach them, their tone is kind and gracious when they speak to us, and they are genuinely interested in what we have to say it is attractive to us and we are drawn to them.    These qualities are absent when one is bored with a person.

Because our words are powerful we ought to ask God to help us to guard how we speak to others.   Especially to those we love the most.   It is easy to assume upon them and treat other people better than those that are closer to us.

“The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary…”   (Isaiah 50:4)

“A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!”   (Proverbs 15:23)

How can we improve in communicating our feelings to the one we love the most?

  • Communicate your feelings in a note.   Some people write their feelings better than expressing them verbally.  Also, another advantage to writing them is the recipient can keep your gift of words and review them later.
  • Say the usual in a different way.  Take time to think about how you feel and say it in a fresh way.   What happens when one says, “I love you” or “You’re a great friend” in different words?  It gives it a little more impact and helps them to remember it.   How about, “You are so special to me…you are a gift from God to me…you make my life better…I can’t believe how blessed I am to have you in my life”.    Of course, you have to mean what you say, but when ideas aren’t clothed in tired phrases it jolts our brain and helps to receive the message better.
  • Get over your reticence to express yourself.  Some temperaments are not as expressive as others.   Some people have negative family experiences that have brought hurt into their life.  They struggle to share their hearts.   Whatever the case may be, the time will come when you will wish that you had.
  • Say it in time.   Don’t procrastinate.  The window of opportunity may be closing and you don’t know it.   I don’t think one can say “thank you” too much to someone that has blessed them.    So, don’t just express yourself on one occasion, learn to tell them often.

My wife is my best friend and I want her not only to know that, but also to know how much I love her.   My mother is still living and I want her to know how important she is to me.   I want my children and grandchildren to know that they are incredibly special to my heart.

I am a debtor.

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone”.   (Harriet Beecher Stowe)

 

Posted in Affirmation, Attention, close family, communication, emotions, Encouragement, Family Issues, friendship, Gratitude, Growing marriage, Happy marriage, Kindness, Married and Friends, Speech, Time | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friends are Transparent with Each Other

Recently I shared with my wife that I was emotionally fatigued and discouraged.  A part of me wanted to keep that to myself and “be strong”, but I needed someone to talk with about it.  And she is my best friend.

A close relationship requires transparency. 

We see this principle in Moses’ relationship with God.   Theirs was a special relationship.   The Bible says that when God communed with him it was “as a man speaketh to his friend”. 

What does that mean?  

The text gives us a clue – “…the LORD talked with Moses…and the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.”  (Exodus 33:9, 11)

They spoke “face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend”.    Face to face.   This carries the idea of a conversation that involves time and the unveiling of personal information. 

The same idea is again mentioned after Moses’ death – “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face”.   (Deuterononomy 34:10)   He knew the Lord and they spoke as close friends, transparently and intimately.   

I love this picture of Paula! It was taken somewhere near Romney, New Hampshire in the mid-90’s. The White Mountain region is spectacularly beautiful in the fall. Paula is beautiful all the time! I love Paula Mae.

Close friends are transparent with one another.   There is a freedom to speak, an openness, and a liberty that is not shared within other relationships.

  • This is a willingness to let the guard down and to risk fear, rejection, and misunderstanding.   Yet, this is where the gold is, where the depth of a relationship begins.

Someone said that intimacy is “into me you see”.   Nothing hidden and based on trust.  When violated, betrayal and disloyalty hurts like nothing else.   It’s a sacred thing to allow someone into your heart.

  • It speaks of sincerity and genuineness.

It’s a joy to be able to spend time with someone that is just real.  But it’s disarming because it is so rare.   When we find such a person we connect with them and want to know them better. 

One of my favorite words for someone like this is that they are “simple”.   My father had a simplicity about the way he lived.   So did my childhood friend, David Pogue.   That’s why I miss them so much.    No agenda; just real. 

  • It involves a trust of personal weaknesses, personal aspirations and hopes.

It’s an unusual conversation to share personal fears, regrets, and dreams.   One that must be earned over time.

Dreams are fragile and can be destroyed by the wrong comment by the right person.   When our fears are mocked or not taken seriously we don’t open up to that person again.   When our regrets and past pains are shared without our permission we will never trust that person with our heart again.

Secrets bind a person and we should be careful who we share them with.   That’s one reason adultery happens.   Before there is a physical connection, there is an emotional connection.   A forbidden emotional intimacy leads to sexual sin. 

It’s true, a close relationship requires transparency.

Jesus said so – “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”   (John 15:15)

Adam Clarke commented on this verse, “I have admitted you into a state of the most intimate fellowship with myself; and have made known unto you whatsoever I have heard from the Father…”  

A healthy marriage is made of friends; two people able to reveal their innermost hearts.    Friends don’t require that we “be OK” all of the time.   They can listen and still love us, even when we are not at our best. 

“A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that gentle hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away”.   (George Eliot)

If you want to enjoy a close relationship in marriage then you must learn to bare your heart and trust it with your best friend, your husband or wife.

 

Posted in bearing burdens, close family, comfort, communication, conversation, Discouragement, Encouragement, Family Issues, Friends, friendship, Growing marriage, Happy marriage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friends Serve One Another

One of my fondest memories of friendship came out of a time when Paula and I were hurting the most.   We were at home, both of us recovering from physical setbacks.

I had been in the hospital with pneumonia two nights before and the day before Paula had miscarried our first child in that same hospital.    So we were not only hurting physically, but our hearts were broken.

It was a Sunday and I ordinarily would have been at church to fulfill my responsibilities, but both of us were in no shape to go anywhere.    Shortly after noon someone knocked on our little apartment door and it was a family from our church, mom and dad with four of their children in our youth ministry.   With compassionate smiles and hands full of food and a fruit basket they came in and served us.    We have never forgotten that act of kindness.

Why did they do this?  They were our friends.   And that is what friends do: they serve each other.

Likewise, a healthy marriage has two people that are serving each other consistently.

Several years ago Paula had surgery and was debilitated for a while.   I took a week off from work to stay at home and just waited on her.   She rested on the couch and we watched videos together.  I took care of her meals (I didn’t cook, but bought food!).   It was a sweet time for me to serve her.

But more important than a focused time of serving when she is down is just being aware on a daily basis of my calling to be her servant.   Jesus called me to “nourish and cherish” my wife (Ephesians 5:29).   At the heart of that is serving and caring.

It’s easy to take advantage of people that are good to you.   It’s also easy to overlook how good they are, until the benefit is gone and you realize, too late, what a treasure you had in that person.

Jesus was a friend to His disciples and called them friends (John 15:14).   On the night before He was crucified He washed their feet, a dirty, humbling task which only the lowest servant was assigned to do.   Now He tasks us to do the same – to serve each other in humble and quiet ways, because we love each other.   Because we are friends.

“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”   (John 13:14-15)

The work of the gospel in our hearts brings a genuine humility and willingness to want to serve, to put others before our own selves, and to love as Christ has loved us.    Christianity is best seen in relationships and the most basic relationship is that of the husband and wife. 

Friends serve one another.   And a good marriage has two people that are conscious of the needs of the other – and do their best to meet that need.

Don’t wait until the one you love is gone before you realize how much you cared for them – and you have regrets for not serving them well.

“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving”.   (Amy Carmichael)

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The Comfort of a Friend

A strong marriage has at the core a relationship that is defined by a healthy friendship. If one can learn and apply the characteristics of a friendship then that relationship will be stronger, happier and deeper.

One of the qualities of friends is that they comfort each other in times of sorrow and grief.

“…Judah’s wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.” (Genesis 38:12)    We see here that Judah was comforted in the death of his wife by his friend, Hirah.

This is seen in marriage when after Isaac’s mother, Sarah, had died that his wife, Rebekah, brought comfort to him in his grief.

“And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”   (Genesis 24:67)

The same expression is also used of Joseph comforting his brothers after the death of their father, Jacob (Genesis 50:21).    It is one way that love expresses itself.

The word “comfort” in these verses has the idea of “consoling, expressing pity, and having mercy”.

When genuine heartfelt empathy is communicated it strengthens a relationship.

Aristotle said that a friend was “a single soul dwelling in two bodies”.   I like this picture of friendship.  Part of the soul dynamic is the urgency and yearning to communicate comfort because someone you love is hurting.

There are three types of burdens people carry.   First, are personal responsibilities (Galatians 6:5).   While they can get uncomfortable sometimes and seem cumbersome, they are our own burden.  Second, burdens we cannot carry alone and need the help of other people (Galatians 6:2).   The third category are burdens so heavy that no human can help us, only God can carry them (Psalm 55:22).

It is in the second level where God uses people to bring comfort to us in our most difficult seasons – and we never forget these people.

This is the kind of friend Titus was to Paul – “Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus”.  (II Corinthians 7:6)

Since a good marriage has the elements of friendship in it, part of that involves burden-bearing and comforting during times of sorrow.

When I was in college someone impatiently knocked at my dorm door and told me there was an emergency call.   (We only had one phone on the hall).  I hurried to the phone and it was my best friend back home.   He shared that his grandmother had died.  Though I was 100 miles away, he didn’t call his pastor or a relative to share his broken heart; he called his friend for comfort in that moment.   We reach out to friends when we are hurting; or at least, we want to.

I experienced the most difficult thing in my life when I was thirteen years old – my grandfather died.  We were very close; I am named after him.   It was devastating for me.   The day of the funeral I sat on the front pew in the funeral home as friends walked by the coffin for the final viewing after the service (as we did in the early 1970’s).   My emotions numb until I saw my childhood friend and his family walk in front of me.   As I saw the look of sadness in the eyes of my friend my tears began to flow.

Today, I still remember that compassionate look from my friend. Almost twenty years later his grandfather passed and I made sure to be there for him.

That is what friends do.   They show up and comfort, sometimes without saying a word, but just their presence and a hug communicates compassion and helps to lift our burden a bit.

“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”  (Helen Keller)

I have a friend who is a pastor and was going through some very difficult times with a staff member.    After the staff member left because of some personal problems he began to say things about this pastor and twisted them, leaving out parts that would explain why some decisions had been made.  Because the staff member was well-loved my pastor friend took some criticism.   He wanted to defend himself, but felt like it would hurt the family of the disgruntled employee, so he kept quiet and took the brunt of some hurtful comments.

After a couple of weeks, one evening, very discouraged, he sat down on the couch feeling alone and misunderstood.   He told me that his wife came in a few minutes later and sat down by him and without saying a word just held his hand for a long time.  It was one of the most meaningful times of encouragement he had ever had.   His friend had comforted him.

That is what a healthy marriage looks like.  Each will comfort the other.   Because they are friends.

Invest in your marriage.  Find out where your husband or wife is hurting, grieving or sorrowing and comfort them.  After all, they are your friend.

Posted in adversity, bearing burdens, comfort, Family Issues, Friends, friendship, grief, Mercy, pain, sorrow, Strong Marriage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friendship and Marriage

One of the keys to a happy marriage is to have the same ingredients in the relationship that are present in a friendship. The love story given in the Song of Solomon reflects this when the bride refers to her husband as she talks to her friends – “…This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.” (Song of Solomon 5:16)

Part of the simplicity of the relationship in the honeymoon phase of marriage is that it is characterized by the freshness of friendship love. The qualities of friendship will enhance any marriage. In fact, if you have a better friend than your husband or wife, your marriage is in trouble!

When Israel strayed from God, God told his preacher, Jeremiah to, “…Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals…”  (Jeremiah 2:2)    They had gotten away from their “first love” they had for the Lord.  It had become stale, predictable and lost the kindness that once defined it.

Have you noticed that many times people treat their friends better than their family members?  Oh, they still love their family, but not like they used to.  One of the causes of the decline is that the qualities that formerly caused them to be friends have declined.

When we assume upon what it means to be a friend and enjoy the benefits, but fail to take the time to consider what it means to be a friend, we cannot restore what is missing when those qualities are not present.

What are the characteristics that mark a friendship?  Friends do behave in certain ways.

For example, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly…” (Proverbs 18:24)

God speaks to the matter of friendship in the Bible so that we can be better friends . These traits and responsibilities can be applied to our families as well.  They deepen our joy and help us to build a stronger relationship.

Yes, I know above all that marriage is a covenant and is based on unconditional love.   Those truths are foundational to a lasting and happy marriage above all.  But I also know that when I met Paula that we were friends before we were husband and wife. And I have treasured that aspect of our relationship and missed it when we let some part of it slide.

One of the greatest joys and blessings of life is to have good friends. Even better is it to have a mate that is your dearest friend and to have your children to become your friends.    I believe our failure to understand the dynamics of friendship causes us to some degree to forfeit the intimacy and joy God wants us to experience in our family.

In the next several posts I’ll share some of these qualities. I hope that they will encourage and strengthen the friendship aspect of your relationship with your family members.

Posted in Family Issues, friendship, Marriage, Married and Friends | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment