A few months ago, I met a woman who said she’d grown weary of depending on the kindness of friends. Often disappointed, even devastated, by the lack of consistency in her friendships, she decided to tough-it-out alone. In her words, “There would be no more half-hearted words of encouragement or flimsy hand-holding for her.” She wanted to get off the expectation roller coaster of the friendship ride.
When I asked how her new approach was working, she replied “It’s ok for the most part…until I need a shoulder to cry on.” I smiled and said, “Who doesn’t need a shoulder to cry on?” As tears begin to fill her eyes, I asked if I could pray that God would lead her to shoulders that wouldn’t crumple beneath the weight of her tears. She took me up on my offer and I was happy to share with her about the only set of shoulders I know that can stand the test of time.
The familiar saying, “A friend in need is a friend in deed” celebrates an essential friendship function — being there for a friend in their time of need. However, the biblical description of friendship expands on this familiar saying by telling us that, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17) All times includes joy and sorrow, success and failure, hope and disappointment, abundance and lack. These varied life experiences provide the “all times” litmus test that every friendship must endure.
How do your friendships stand the test of time? Offering prayer, sound biblical advice, and help with practical needs are vital areas in which we can offer our support. As we focus our hearts on God’s grace, there’s little room for indifference, envy, or lack of compassion between friends. In fact, a time of need often presents a critical point for examining the strength of our friendship connections.
Friends may not always see eye to eye, but they can see heart to heart. We may not always share a friend’s opinion but we can value it.
— Joy A. Williams (@joytothesoul) October 21, 2014
This vital connection is written about in my book Friendship MAPS, A Journey through Maturity, Aspirations, Perspectives, and Struggles (more information is available on the Products page). While there are many reasons a bond forms between friends, the MAPS concept describes four very common pathways for connecting with our friends:
As we seek MATURITY, we connect with people who challenge us. It might seem uncomfortable at first, but our personal growth is worth each ouch!
As we seek to fulfill our ASPIRATIONS, we connect with people who celebrate us. Everyone needs a cheerleader. A friend offers us a pat on the back as we set our goals and they cheer us on until we reach them.
As we seek to form our PERSPECTIVES, we connect with people who counsel us. Friends may not always see eye to eye, but they can see heart to heart. We may not always share a friend’s opinion but we can value it.
As we seek to overcome STRUGGLE, we connect with people who comfort us. If you dialed Friendship 911, who would be on the other end of the line? Your struggle buddy that’s who! Friends can rise to the occasion even when the occasion includes life’s worst.
A Friendship MAPS study guide (in PDF) will be available in January 2015! You may choose to do the study alone or organize a group. I look forward to sharing more highlights of the book and a few new nuggets in the study guide.
Just in case you feel like your friendships are fading or absent, here’s some good news: there is a friend that sticks closer than any brother. (see Proverbs 18:24) His name is Jesus. He knows every inch of our life-scape and He loves us more than we can imagine. As we journey through life, friends are not meant to be stand-alone solutions for life’s ups and downs. Friends are intended to be God’s ambassadors, as He often uses the friendship connection as His “all times” pathway for touching our lives. Knowing that brings hope to my heart and joy to my soul.
A true friend loves regardless of the situation, and a real brother exists to share the tough times. Proverbs 17:17 –The Voice
What do you value most in your friendships?
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