Passage: Ecclesiastes 4:9-11
If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! (v.10)
I looked up and they were all standing together in that tiny room. Six faces that I have learned to love as dear friends. Their eyes were full of concern, mercy. Their words were healing balm to my tired spirit. As they started praying, hands on my shoulder, I let tears of gratitude fall. “Thank you, God, for my friends,” I whispered.
What would I do without friends?
I have thought about that often these days. When I moved to America, 30 years of life were packed in four not-so-large suitcases and mixed emotions flowed as we landed on Hartsfield-Jackson on November 27th, 1999. Excitement for having married the love of my life and yet, the sorrow of leaving a lifetime of treasures behind… namely my family and friends.
As I shuffle through my contacts on the smartphone today, the memories of that day are but a shadow. God has sent me faithful friends through the years: Friends “who have picked me up when I fell down.” Friends who have “kept me warm in cold valleys of my life” (v.11). Indeed, Solomon must have thought of some of my friends when he wrote Ecclesiastes 4.
There is no doubt that true friendship is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. As Solomon said, “pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” And yet, so many people face loneliness throughout the year and especially during the holiday season.
“You must be a friend in order to have a friend.” The truth of that statement challenges me to check my heart in regards to how I treat my friends.
The matter of good and bad companions is the subject of an entire chapter on my upcoming book. Indeed, the Bible has a lot to say about the characteristics of a good friend. But today I would like to focus on a few characteristics of true friendship:
True friends rejoice in your accomplishments. There is no room for jealousy in true friendship.
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.” James 3:14-15
To Ponder: Do you get excited with your friends’ accomplishments? Do you rejoice when your friend is successful, finds true love, starts a ministry or gets promoted? Do you rejoice when she or he is in the spotlight, instead of you? The state of our hearts when we see others conquering milestones that we wish for ourselves reveal much on the depth of our love for our neighbor.
True friends speak truth in love… even when it hurts.
“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.” Galatians 6:1a
To Ponder: I am blessed to have a couple of friends who will “tell it like it is” when I need to hear it. One friend in particular has become like a strong compass in my life. She is a woman of prayer and wisdom and God has used her numerous times to point out flaws in my character that needed change. However (and this is so very important), she is also the first one to encourage me and rejoice with me with every small milestone conquered. I treasure her honesty and reassurance. Are you that type of friend to your friends? Better yet, can you take that type of honesty from your friends?
True friends do not gossip about you.
“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.” Proverbs 11:13
To Ponder: Backbiter, busybody, slanderer, talebearer, whisperer – these are some of the terms used in the Bible to describe gossipers. None of them are flattering. None of them evoke the thought of an ideal friend. Are you able to keep secrets? Do you itch to criticize one friend to another? I believe this is a major issue with many women. Think about it: if Mary tells you Sarah’s secret… or if she speaks ill of Sarah behind her back, would it be possible that she does the same about you when you are not around? Exactly! True friends give each other the courtesy of keeping secrets and not sharing private information. Period.
True friends give sacrificially
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
How many times have I needed a friend when it was inconvenient for them! If you live far from your family like I do, you have needed the help of a dear friend at some point in time.
To Ponder: True friends lay down their lives… sacrificially. They stop and lay down their plans for the day for a friend in need. They lay down judgment to show compassion to a friend who stumbled. Are you compassionate to your friends? Do you go out of your way to help a friend in need? True friends are givers. And sacrifice is one of the greatest demonstrations of love.
Truly, the gift of friendship was one of God’s best ideas. It was another way He chose to display His love for us. True friendship stands against time, distance and trials. You may not speak for several months and even not see each other for years. Yet, your love for each other and dedication never changes. Love is the center of true friendship… and this we know: Love is the greatest gift of all.
“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13
Are you a true friend?