Have you noticed? People are smiling again. In many states, as people have gotten vaccinated, the mask mandate has been lifted. I think many have wrestled with loneliness during the pandemic. Loneliness is the ache in our souls to feel connected and belong. And you know what? That ache was given to us by Almighty God who wants us to feel connected to Him and others.
Relationships are a big deal to me, and I enjoy my friends very much! Some of my friends and I have a relationship that has lasted over 20-30 years. Some are newer friends from over the past 10 years. However, each one is a treasure and God gives me the responsibility to cherish each one.
C.S. Lewis also really valued his friendships and apparently wrote to a friend of his, “If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, ‘sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.’” In this day and age, with the internet, FaceTime, calling, video messenger, and a host of other ways to stay in contact, that isn’t as necessary as it might have been in C.S. Lewis’s day. I know I have dear, close friends all over the country and even in other parts of the world. It does, however, take intentionality to keep the friendship thriving. I have come to realize through the years that friendship is a spiritual issue and something that God honors.
The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about friendships. As I’ve been reading through the book of Proverbs this summer, I am loving the wisdom it provides on friendships. As I’ve been slowly reading and meditating on these poetic truths, I’ve been particularly struck by all the relational advice Solomon gives. God’s invitation to us is to treasure our friendships. Hold them carefully and understand they are of great value in your life. How do we do this?
3 Ways to Treasure Your Friends
Be Loyal. “A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). If ever there was an attribute that mirrors the heart of God, it’s loyalty. Loyalty speaks to faithfulness and steadfastness. Just as God is loyal to us in never-ending friendship, He calls us to mirror His heart in our friendships.When you treasure your friends, you’re willing to put the effort in to keep your promises, take initiative, and stay steady even through challenging seasons. Just as God is faithful and steady in our lives, He calls us to offer that to others.
The most beautiful friendships are those that develop and continue growing through the years. Just as our life in Christ is to continue growing and being renewed, our friendships are to continue growing and being renewed.
Be Forgiving. “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17:9). Think about how often Jesus forgives you for your offenses and mess-ups. Staggering, right?! Again, we are to mirror that same mindset in our friendships and relationships with others. The truth is, people, even close friends will offend you from time to time. I guess it’s part of being human. However, each offense that we forgive moves us one step closer to Christlikeness.
Be Empathic. “To answer before listening – that is folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13). “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Proverbs 20:5). Each of us is a complicated human being with thoughts and feelings. If you want to treasure your friends, create the space to listen to them and draw them out. Listen attentively – not to advance your own agenda – but to hear the beauty of another’s heart.
Everyone I know has had enormous stress over the past year and a half. Loneliness, fear, and depression have been on the rise. As followers of Jesus, we have the opportunity to offer deep Christlike friendship to others. As we love and treasure those God allows us to be in relationship with, not only will we bless others, we’ll also feel more connected ourselves.
God has designed us for community. If you’re feeling lonely during this season, consider, “Are you cherishing your friendships?” One of the most God-glorifying things we can do is to value our friends. Treasure each one by being loyal, forgiving, and empathic. In doing so you will live out the gospel and enjoy life-giving relationships.
Two great resources for your summer studies are The Extraordinary Power of Praise and the correlating devotional, Psalms for the Anxious Heart. I know several summer Bible studies are using these and God is pouring out through them!