I know God said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). I’ve been thinking a lot about friends—it’s been tough to make time for mine lately. Can you give me some insight into why friends are so important?
Dear Dale, I would be glad to share a few thoughts.
1. If Jesus needed close friends, think how important close friends must be for us.
Jesus said to His disciples, “No longer said do I call you servants, but I have called you friends” (John 15:15).
Before Jesus went to Jerusalem to die, he stopped along the way to see his good friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus
Jesus had the Twelve disciples (well, eleven anyway), and three of these were His intimate friends.
Jesus shared His glory with Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. He wanted his three best friends to experience the joyous shining of His glory with Him. He didn’t want to experience His transfiguration alone.
Jesus was struggling in the Garden the night before the crucifixion. He pleaded with His disciples to watch and pray for Him. He needed his close friends to provide encouragement and comfort.
Unfortunately, in that case, they did not measure up to the task. That happens sometimes.
Every Christian needs close friends to walk with through life.
2. We live in a lonely culture. Everyone could use some friends.
I was sitting in the Tulsa airport when the man next to me began talking about friends.
He shared that he didn’t have any. In fact, he told me that recently his wife said to him, “You need some friends.”
“So, I went out and bought a dog. You know, dogs are a man’s best friend!”
Is that sad or what?
Don’t get me wrong; dogs can be wonderful companions. My daughter, Brianna, says that God must have created dogs right before Eve, because they love well, respond to emotion, and show loyalty.
But don’t miss this. Even in the Garden of Eden, even with the Creator as his companion, God looked at Adam’s loneliness and said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.” So, he created Eve.
God created us to live in relationship with one another.
3. Our world is filled with people who outwardly look content but inwardly are crying out for someone to love them.
Many are confused, lonely, frustrated, frightened, guilty, and unable to communicate, even with their own families.
Other people look so happy and contented that we seldom have the courage to admit our own deep needs.
Don’t be fooled. If only these people who seem so happy and contented would just take off their masks, we would often see that they are in as much pain as we are—perhaps even more.
4. Close friends have the ability to sense inner turmoil and then administer love, comfort, and grace at just the right times.
Pastor Alexander MacLaren used to say, “Be kind to everyone you meet, because everyone is fighting a battle.”
During my forty-plus years of pastoring, I discovered that most people have one word—just one—that will pierce through their façade and reveal the hurt underneath. I’m sure that’s true for you, too, whether it be a wayward child’s name, an illness or disease, a deep disappointment, or a painful memory.
That’s why in many ways, the church, not the building, but the people, is a hospital for hurting people. We come together and help one another heal through intimate friendship and understanding. We all need authentic love and acceptance!
5. Close friends allow us to experience the “wonder of with.”
Notice that Jesus didn’t send His disciples—his close friends—out to preach until the final year of His ministry. They spent two and a half years just being with Him.
Imagine what people said to the disciples during the first two and a half years.
“What do you do here in ministry?”
“Well, we are here with Him.”
“Yeah, but what do you do?”
“We just hang around with him.”
The only one who held a job during those two and a half years was who? Judas. I bet Judas never embraced the “wonder of with.”
In the western world, we have lost the “wonder of with. We are always frantically wanting to go out and do! But God intended for us to walk through life with one another, simply experiencing life together.
Where do you learn the “wonder of with”? You learn it in Jerusalem—just hanging out with your spouse, family, and friends.
My son-in-law, Brad, began practicing the “wonder of with” alongside my granddaughters from the moment they were born. Heading to the grocery store? He bundled them into the car. A late afternoon at work? He picked them up from school, grabbed a drink at Sonic, and they listened to music in his office. An evening at home? He brought everyone into the living room to snuggle on the couch and watch a movie—no phones allowed.
Today, I wish you could see the love those young women have for their daddy. Every week, each one claims a “daddy-daughter” date. Great relationships grow out of the “wonder of with.”
6. Friendship is a “sheltering tree.”
Samuel Coleridge was a British essayist and poet who is best remembered for The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, which told the story of a becalmed ship filled with dead men.
Coleridge was victimized by rheumatism. He tried to mask his pain with opium and became addicted. He was lonely and in unhappy marriage. His wife died young of cancer. Coleridge died in his sixties under a doctor’s care–still addicted, miserable, and unable to settle the voices which were raging inside.
But he had a close friend named William Wordsworth. If you love poetry, that name should be very familiar. He stood by Coleridge through it all, offering comfort, acceptance, and strength.
One of Coleridge’s best works has never been published. My favorite line is, “Friendship is a sheltering tree.”
I think of close friends like great trees with leafy limbs that come around us and spread themselves over us. They bring shade from the sun, protection from storms, and combat winter’s wind of loneliness. Picture a great sheltering tree. That is a close friend.
7. Friends must be cultivated. They don’t come automatically.
“A man who has friends must show himself friendly” (Proverbs 18:24).
Samuel Johnson wrote: “If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. One should keep his friendships in constant repair.”
In the wake of Covid, many of us became incredibly isolated. We discovered artificial substitutes for close friendships like social media or even binge-watching TV. We text more often than we talk! Today, getting together “in person” often seems like too much effort.
But let’s be real. There is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. We need genuine, heartfelt conversation where we can respond to each other’s facial expressions. Emojis don’t cut it! We need hugs and handshakes, not hashtags. We need to clasp hands and pray together, not just copy and paste “praying” into the comment section of a Facebook post.
Close friendship is worth the effort every time. Please, don’t stay isolated. We need each other now!
8. Friends aren’t neutral.
If you run with good friends, you become a better person. If you run with poor friends, you will risk your faith.
Choose your friends wisely. In 1 Corinthians 15:33, Paul warns, “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”
If you are a gossip, you usually run with gossips. If you are a rebel, you run with rebels. Or on the other hand, if you run with rebels, you become one. If you want to be wise, run with wise people and you become wise. It’s amazing how our friends influence who we are.
9. Friends come in four classifications, not one. (Thank you, Chuck Swindoll!)
1. Acquaintances are those with whom we have spasmodic contact and superficial interaction. We don’t ask hard questions. For example: “How are you doing?” “I’m really not doing very well, but I can’t tell you.”
2. Casual friends may share with us some common interests. Maybe we will even ask an opinion of a casual friend. We are a little closer but not too close. We still keep a safe distance.
3. Close friends often have similar life goals. We feel free to ask close friends the hard questions. We often go out to eat with close friends or have them over for meals. These are the folks with whom we invest much time as we open up and share with them.
4. We keep no secrets from intimate friends. We can tell them anything. Our hearts are laid bare before them. We share our very lives with intimate friends.
Now, let me tell you a tragedy. Many people have no intimate friends. They are the loneliest people in the world. There is no one with whom they can open up. That’s why life is so tough.
You are very fortunate if you’ve had one or two intimate friends. Most people never have even one.
10. Good friends stand beside us when we need them.
An old legend says that Gabriel the Angel came to Christ after His ascension and asked Him about His plan for sharing the Gospel with the whole world.
Jesus said: “I have selected twelve men and told them to take the gospel to the entire world.”
Gabriel replied, “But they are just men. Men get sick and die. They can be lazy and disobedient and confused. What if they fail? What is your backup plan?”
Jesus said: “I don’t have a backup plan. I am counting on them.” And they didn’t let Him down.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
Well, I hope this both answers your question and encourages you to pursue close friendships.