Monday, April 30, 2012

Friendships Filled with Life

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Why do we need friends?  I mean, why not just live the life of a hermit, secluded in a tiny cabin all by ourselves?  You can’t get hurt there. You would be safe there. Or is it really a safe place? 

Actually, we’re never safe with sin and ourselves around. (But there is safety in the arms of our Savior amidst the troubles of this world.) We need friends. A good friend will sharpen us (Proverbs 27:17) and encourage and give hearty counsel (Proverbs 27:9). In Proverbs it tells us that it is foolish to seek our own desire and to isolate ourselves (18:1), but that there is actually safety in a multitude of counselors (11:14).

I’ve known both the pain and the joy friendships can bring. Except for a few pen pals that I had as a young girl, the only good friends I had as I grew up were my sisters, (and we’re still very good friends!). Not all, but most of the “friends” that my family and I had at a certain point in my childhood didn’t exactly manifest grace or forgiveness or words of truth.  I was keenly aware that I could do one wrong thing and that would possibly be the end of the friendship. I’ve had to accept that God had a reason for those unusual friendships. I think experiencing the tension of that has intensified my desire to become a good friend. It makes me eager to know what being a true friend really is, because I want to be that friend. 

But as much as we need friends, we need to find our total rest and confidence in the Lord, otherwise we run the risk of becoming bitter from hurts, plus we’ll have something worth imparting to others when the Lord is our joy! If we’re in constant fellowship with our Friend, He will seep through us more and more and we will grow more and more into the friend we would like to have.

Christ laid down his life at the cross and showed true sacrificial love. His grace is boundless. He is full of joy. Through His word He gives us words of refreshment and warning. He cares for us. He is faithful and forgiving (He doesn’t suddenly give up on us if we mess up). The list goes on. Aren’t these characteristics that we’re drawn to in a friend? (I’ve also come to the conclusion that the Lord has a sense of humor, and I love that in a friend!)

A friend is an imitator of Christ. They die to themselves and are someone who is there in the thick and thin and display the selfless love and forgiveness of Christ. They show interest in what another is doing. They're able to confront sin and also are affirming and pointing others to Christ. 

It’s easy to become dependent on our friends, especially when we see these qualities in them. But that is the surest way to collapse into discouragement. The Lord is the dependable one and the only one worthy of this reliance. When we’re not depending on a friend, there is really no room for retaliation or bad feelings towards them because you’re not having unrealistic expectations of them.

This means that if we feel weak and unable to be a good friend, we’re then more qualified than ever to be a true friend! For He tells us: “”My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”’ {2 Corinthians 12:9}. He is perfected in our weakness. (That’s encouragement!)

When we live in the awareness of our sinfulness and Christ’s mercy and grace, we are the best equipped to be a selfless friend!  There’s safety in this kind of cross centered friendship. It’s easy to want to keep a record of wrongs and feel sorry for oneself when someone doesn’t treat us the way we think we should be treated. This is why we need to look to the cross to find the source of being a good friend. We have been forgiven so much. In light of this amazing forgiveness, this erasing of our wrongs against a Holy and just God, how can we, who are forgiven, keep a record of wrongs against a friend? In a true friendship, whenever we fall there is forgiveness waiting.

True friendships are built in the unchanging grace, love, and joy that only come from Jesus. When we spend time in the presence of Jesus and bask in His character we will be able to be a true friend – loving people truly, for no selfish gain of our own. All of our deepest needs are met in Him (and a faithful friend will remind another friend of this when they’re struggling).

Let’s be occupied with Someone much greater than ourselves. Treasure Jesus. Be steadfast in Him. Let’s see every pain in a friendship as an opportunity to extend and manifest His grace. What a beautiful thing that we can manifest our Friend’s character to the friends that the Lord has chosen to place in our path. It’s not a painless journey by any means. It’s a constant living out of God’s grace. It’s a constant dying to bring life. It’s setting our gaze outward. Life-filled, God-glorifying friendships are worth it!
~Ana R. Wolf

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