As I write this, Steve and I have our close friends Greg and Jill in town. We’ve been friends for years. During a rough season in our lives, Greg and Jill were there, supporting, praying, and processing with us. During difficult seasons in their lives, we’ve been supportive of them. When we’re together we enjoy fun and laughter as well as deep, meaningful conversations. Our friendship is life-giving and uplifting.
Friendship was God’s idea. He designed us to live in community. There’s a story in the gospel of Mark that illustrates this principle.
A group of friends went in desperate search of Jesus. Their friend was paralyzed (Mark 2:1-5). Determined to help, they conjured up a plan. They would bring the paralyzed man on a stretcher to Jesus. The only problem? The crowd that had gathered to hear Jesus was so large that they couldn’t even get close to Him. But their love for their friend compelled them to not give up. Scrambling to the roof, they cut a hole so they could lower him to where Jesus was teaching.
Imagine. Jesus was in the middle of His message and a stretcher with a paralyzed man fell in front of Him! That kind of puts an unexpected twist in your message, huh? But Jesus felt so moved with compassion and stirred by the dedication of the paralytic’s four friends, that He welcomed the interruption and healed the man on the stretcher.
As I have been reflecting on this story, I am reminded of the importance of friendships.
- Close friends support each other through difficult seasons of life. Sometimes, we are the ones helping to carry the stretcher for a close friend, encouraging and lifting them up in prayer. At other moments, we might be the one on the stretcher needing our friends to gently lift us up to Jesus.
- Close friends keep us grounded while at the same time lifting us up when we feel paralyzed. Our spiritual growth happens most effectively in deep relationships with others. Our close friends will dare to be honest with us while at the same time loving us towards a closer walk with Christ. When a decision paralyzes us, a close friend will allow and even facilitate processing. A close friend will withhold advice but be quick to listen. Most importantly, close friends will pray and carry us to the throne of grace.
- Close friends bring more joy to life. Joy is a part of God’s plan for our lives, and joy is actually best cultivated in relationship. Our close friends laugh, play, and enjoy life with us. They fill our lives with more meaning and deeper happiness.
Life’s too short to not have deep friendships. As you think about your life, who are your close friends? Who are you willing to carry on a stretcher and who can you turn to when you need a stretcher?