As we ramp up for the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s) every year, I’m struck by a topic that pops up consistently: Loneliness. Loneliness plagues many people in our hyper-individualistic, breakneck-speed society. I get it. I mean, what do we see when we walk down a busy street, hang out in a coffee shop, or take public transit? Folks glued to little blue screens, shutting out much of the world. Many of us are lonely because our life-styles crowd out other people.
So, what about folks who really want to connect and feel like there’s no one around? If this describes you, I don’t have a magic cure for loneliness or anything, but I do have a suggestion: Try friendship. In other words, if we’re desperate for companionship, fellowship, and (I couldn’t think of another word ending in “ship”, but you get it), then let’s aim for friendship, rather than just settling for “company.” I’ll tell you why later. For now, let’s look at a few Bible verses on friendship:
- “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).
- “What is desired in a man is steadfast love, and a poor man is better than a liar” (Proverbs 19:22)
- “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
Yes! These proverbs shine a spotlight on some of our most accurate expectations for friendship. Friends who always love us—even in the crappy times. Steadfast love. Friends who are closer to us than blood relatives. These are the kinds of friendships we should aim for. These are also the kinds of friends we should aim to be.
But here are another set of verses about friendship:
- “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6).
- “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
- “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)
- “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:5-6)
WOAH. Wounds? Wisdom? Rebuke? Sharpening? Um, no. Well…YES. Friendships that draw out truth (even inconvenient truths) and strike down falsehoods (even comfortable falsehoods) are vital and life-giving. This, too, is friendship. God works powerfully in our lives when we’ve got these kinds of friends. The Lord also works powerfully through us when we become these kinds of friends to others. The Lord has used these kinds of friendships in my life to correct, heal, and guide me (and I have the scars to prove it!).
This is a bit much for someone just looking to survive the holiday blues, right? If we just want to merely survive, then perhaps that’s right. But what if we want to thrive? Jesus said, ” I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). Clearly, Jesus is into having a supernatural fountain of life running wild all over us. If that’s true, then Jesus must want us to have life-giving friendships.
Okay, so where do I find these people, these life-giving friends? Where do I start? Well, how about we start in church? I’m a flawed-but-growing follower of Christ. Want to be friends? Oh, and there’s other flawed-but-growing followers of Christ here too. Want to be friends with them? Start a conversation. Reach out over a cup of coffee on Sunday morning. Compliment someone as you’re volunteering alongside them. Start somewhere and build a friendship over time. Will this work every time with everyone? Most likely not. But you’ve got to start somewhere with someone. ANOTHER BIG THING (hence the large, bold font): When folks reach out to you in these same ways, open yourself up to them. Other folks need friends too. Friends just like you.
~ Pastor Myron