Nothing proves friendship like adversity. Friendship is costly. Sometimes it is not easy to stand with people during difficult hours. It will take time, energy, and may involve money.
“Words are easy, like the wind; faithful friends are hard to find.”, wrote William Shakespeare.
There is a rugged, sacrificial type of love that just won’t let go. The Bible says that love will bear everything, will believe for everything, hope for everything, and endure everything (I Corinthians 13:7). This type of behavior is seen when someone we care about is going through hard times. Love is proven in the hard times.
It is during the hard times we discover not only the value of a friend, but also who they are.
John Churton Collins wrote, “In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends.”
They will be there when you need them most. They shine best when you feel alone and are tired physically and emotionally. They don’t need explanations. They care about you the same in times of failure as in times of success. They don’t even need a call. They just show up. What a treasure they are; committed friends.
“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” (Elbert Hubbard)
What does commitment in friendship look like? Here are a few. I see these qualities of commitment in my wife, Paula, in over four decades of marriage. She reminds me of Jesus, Who best embodies them.
- Friendship is not always convenient. When we have trouble it isn’t written in our planner. It just happens. Emergency room visits. Helping to clean up after food poisoning and throwing up at 3 a.m. Discouragement from a negative comment. A kidney stone attack at 5 a.m.
These and many other things have happened to me and Paula has helped without complaint. She sometimes lost sleep, but this is what close friends do for each other. They show up even when it isn’t convenient.
I saw this expressed recently in my friends when my Mom passed away unexpectedly. If you have ever experienced this, you understand the shock and fog that accompanies it. I was numb, my mind racing with memories, and my heart broken.
Two days after her death we received a call from dear friends who were on vacation and asked about having lunch with Paula and myself. I hesitated. because for them it was a four hour drive one way. After the meal they would get back in their car and go back. An eight hour drive and a full day of their vacation interrupted. They came and we were blessed and encouraged. I had many stories like this in this difficult season of my life.
During the visitation the evening before Mom’s funeral service it was cold and stormy outside with a driving rain that never stopped, on December 22, a time of year when people are with their families. I was comforted to see many of my friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, some in decades. Some stood in line for over an hour after braving the weather only to speak to us for less than a minute because of the crowd. I was overwhelmed at their kindness.
Friendship doesn’t count the cost of convenience.
- Friendship is an obligation. Friendship is a reciprocal relationship, but the focus isn’t on receiving. Both contribute and, in time, the other will be a receiver. Often the time when they receive is in a season of hardship. And their friend is there to minister to them.
In the closest of friendships, each assumes a responsibility for the other. A growing friendship grows in a sense of responsibility for the other. Being committed is not optional.
Friendship is not a light matter. It is more than discovering someone who has similar interests or a personality that gels with yours. (Of course, these are important in beginning a lasting relationship). A friendship becomes close because someone has been intentional about serving and helping the other. And this ministry of friendship grows into an obligation, a responsibility based on caring.
My best friend in high school, David, died when he was 22 in a car accident. The night before his funeral it was empty and quiet in the room where his body rested. I stood before his casket remembering and thinking how much I would miss him. My heart was broken.
I don’t know why, I had never thought of friendship as an obligation, but in my heart I said, “David, I’m going to take care of your family the best I can for the rest of my life.” I really didn’t even know what that meant. I didn’t have money, I wasn’t influential; but it was a promise I was compelled to make. In the years to come, I saw how my promise would take shape.
About ten years later I was driving near where his uncle lived and felt the need to drop by and spend some time with him. During that visit after recounting special times and memories, I asked this elderly man in his 80’s about his soul and eternity and shared the gospel with him; how that Jesus Christ came to die in our place to pay the penalty for our sins and rose again from the dead. I explained that those that would receive Christ personally and believe this message with all of their heart would be forgiven. That precious man, David’s uncle, bowed his head and trusted Christ as his Savior on that afternoon.
A few weeks later I had the privilege to baptize him in our church. Soon, David’s mother, sister and her children attended our church. Sometimes David’s brother came, too.
When David’s brother’s wife passed away unexpectedly I spoke at her funeral.
Years later, I was at the hospital when David’s sister, my friend, heard the news that she had terminal cancer. I talked with her and prayed with her. I spoke with her children and her husband. She was young. A few years after that, I served them by speaking at her funeral service. I love them and still think of them and see them occasionally.
Every year I would visit David’s mother on his birthday and she would tell me stories about him. She was my friend. When she passed I conducted her funeral service. David’s brother and I became close friends. We shared meals together and every year on the anniversary of David’s death either him or myself would call each other, depending on whoever called first. Early one morning he passed away and I was asked to speak at his funeral.
On the anniversary of David’s death each year I visit his grave and honor him for a few moments. Sometimes a friend or one of my family will go with me. I know he is not there; he is with the Lord. It’s something I want to do. Surrounding his grave are all these people I have mentioned. I look at their names on headstones and I remember the promise I made to my friend in that funeral home over 40 years ago.
Friendship is an obligation. It’s a joyful privilege to fulfill those obligations when it is for your friend.
The most sacred obligation is the marriage relationship. It is a love and friendship bound by a covenant oath before God and witnesses. My wife is my best friend and has been so good to me. For the past almost fifteen years she has been faithful in caring for me in a disease I battle. It’s not always easy for her.
When we were married (as I write this, over 41 years ago), we said our vows – “…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
Though we meant them we didn’t know that one day they would be tested so severely. Seven miscarriages weren’t on our minds then, experiencing financial difficulties weren’t something we thought about; we sure didn’t think one of us would have an incurable disease. Yet, suffering did come. Love has helped us endure, but it has also been the fact that we are committed friends. We are obligated – we promised.
Now, as I officiate weddings and get to this part of the vows it is difficult for me to hold myself together; I know the importance of what the couple is saying. I sometimes remind them, “These are not just promises for the present, but for the future – most of these challenges you cannot see now, but you will be tested in them; remember your vows when you hit turbulent waters.”
- Friendship is rare. We have a lot of acquaintances, but there are only a handful of people that will go through the grinder with us. We remember them. That group becomes special.
That which is rare is special and ought to be treasured and appreciated. Such is a friend, a husband, a wife. Realize the gift you have while you have it. Friends are precious. You will miss them when they are gone. Love them now.
“You never miss the water until the well runs dry.” (Source unknown)
- Friendship is a gift you give.
Have you ever heard someone say of another person, “He used to be my friend.” Perhaps a better way to express it would be, “I thought he was my friend.”
“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.’ (Proverbs 17:17)
Friendship is a gift I bestow. It may not be reciprocated in equal measure or at all, but friendship is not dependent upon how a person treats me. I can be a friend to someone, even if they are not my friend – at least in the sense that I will treat them as one.
The only way anyone can live this way is by allowing the Lord Jesus Christ to live His life through them. He is loyal to His children, not because they deserve it, but because He is a covenant keeper. His love is pure and unselfish. His love expressed on Calvary was not convenient, but sacrificial. Yet, He wants to be our friend, and for us to be a friend to Him, even as Abraham was called a “friend of God”.
When we practice biblical friendship, it will transform all our relationships. We will have more friends by being a friend than we ever could imagine rather than trying to collect friends.
“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly…” (Proverbs 18:24)
“It’s now what we have, but who we have.” (Winnie the Pooh)