It was late at night, around 10 p.m., and our doorbell rang. I’m still up at that time of night, but rarely have visits at that time unless it is a family member. After turning the porch light on and looking through the little peephole in the door I saw one of our men in our church. Oh, no, this must be serious.
I opened the door and my friend, a man with a rough background, stood there with painting clothes on. It was obvious he had just finished a job. “Are you OK?”, I inquired.
He said, “Yeah, everything is fine”. He looked down and shifted his feet. “I was just driving home and thinking about how good God has been to me and my family. One of the great blessings was when we came to the church. You have been a good friend to me and your teaching and preaching have helped me more than you will ever know. I just had to stop and tell you thank you – and that I love you, preacher”.
That was it. We spoke for less than three minutes, but his kindness to stop and let me know he cared for me still resonates in my heart to this day. It was heartfelt and sincere. Though he lives in another city and no longer attends our church, I know he is my friend.
Best friends care for other and they take the time to share it in words and actions. There is coming a time when failure is going to knock you down and you are going to need a friend to help you. Even if it’s a self-inflicted wound from foolish choices that led to sin your best friend will never give up on you and always love you. Always. Best friends will be the first in line to help and offer grace and concern.
The Bible commands believers to help other believers with their burdens and be there when their friend has done wrong – “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2)
When a believer pulls away from the Lord He chastens Him. At first, gently and tenderly, but if ignored the pressure and problems grow until He has our attention. Note in the following Scripture that after God disciplines and corrects us other believers have a responsibility to come and minister to the chastened one.
“For they (earthly fathers) verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he (the Heavenly Father) for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:10-13)
Through our encouragement and presence we are able to help them “be healed” as we “lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” and “make straight paths for (their) feet, lest (they) be turned out of the way”. This isn’t speaking of physical healing, but of the healing of the soul as it tends to be broken and discouraged in difficult times.
God said that Job was the greatest man in the world in his time (Job 1:8). There are several reasons for this, but one of them had to do with his compassionate heart. He cared for people that were hurting.
Here is how one of his friends speaks of Job’s reputation – “Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands. Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees.” (Job 4:3-4) I would have loved to have had Job for a friend, wouldn’t you? I have had friends that have done exactly that for me.
Permit another story of friendship from my own life. About twenty years ago I was very ill from a stubborn sinus infection. At the time we didn’t have the money to go to the doctor or to care for an antibiotic. I was hoping and praying it would just pass, but each day got worse.
Somehow a friend found out about my need; to this day I don’t know how. I was asleep on our couch at home, very fatigued, and as sick as I had ever been. In the late afternoon three men from our church came to the house. They literally picked me up and carried me to the car and to a doctor’s office.
There I was prescribed antibiotics to treat the infection and I was embarrassed to tell them that I didn’t have the money for them. I thanked them for helping me and told them Paula would get the prescription after I got home. My friends ushered me back to the car and went to the pharmacy; they paid for my antibiotics and then took me home to get well.
I never will forget their sacrifice of time and money to help me. Close friends don’t say, “Call if you need anything”; they just show up when you need them most.
I don’t think we realize how great the need is for us to have a good friend that genuinely cares for us and will help and encourage in our times of trouble. And when we find those friends it is easy to take them for granted. Going through a storm and experiencing pain has a way of reminding us how important and dear these people are to us.
George Eliot expresses the nature of true friendship in such an eloquent, but practical way in one of my favorite quotations about friendship. He wrote, “Oh, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away”.
During the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain I saw compassion and caring illustrated in a way I will never forget. Derek Redmond had trained for many years to compete and win the 400 meters race. As he approached the last part of the race he tore his hamstring and fell to the track in excruciating pain.
All that were watching were hurting for him as his dreams to be a champion died as he knelt on the track on all fours. He slowly got up and began to hop to the finish line, struggling every step of the way, hurting not only physically but emotionally.
Suddenly out of the stands a man came charging toward Derek. A security guard reached out and tried to stop him, but he would not be deterred. It was Derek’s father. He put his son’s arm around his shoulders and he walked with him the rest of the way to the finish line. Derek buried his head in his father’s shoulder weeping as he hobbled those final meters.
All of us know what it means to fail and to have our hopes shattered and the pain of the soul is so great we wonder if we will ever get over it. For the believer it is our Savior that carries us in these times and allows us to pour our grief and brokenness on Him.
God also uses people to help us when our hearts are broken. I have some friends that have been for me in my darkest hours and they will never know how much it meant to me. May I be that kind of friend, too.
Who is that friend to you? Take some time today to let them know how their care has made a difference in your life. One day you might regret not doing so. Most of us fail to realize the value of what we possess until we lose it.
“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)