Good friends are hard to come by, and the company and kindness of a good friend at the right moment can make a world of difference. Proverbs 17:17 says that, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” A good friend is like family, someone whom you can safely confide in, trust and lean on when you need a buffer from the downs of life, and someone who will tell you the things you need to hear, but don’t want to hear.
When I suffered from depression during part of my time at college, it was a close friend in whom I first confided what I was going through. Being able to trust that they wouldn’t judge me or run away made a huge difference in my decision to finally say something to someone. Knowing that there were friends close by mattered, especially since I had attended college in Maine and my family was over 2,000 miles away in Texas.
Opening up to someone, as hand-wringing and uncomfortable as that was, helped put me on the path to see a counselor, stop overloading my schedule, and to return to church. Eventually, I completed the slow climb out of that hole and along the way gained a better appreciation for those who bother to ask how others are doing and expect a truthful answer. A year later when that friend suffered their own breakdown, I was able to return the favor and listen when they told me that they were struggling too.
We were designed by God to be social beings and to form strong, mature, and deep bonds with one another. When we are at the lowest and most hurt, it is overwhelming to be confronted with the extent of God’s love, patience, and forgiveness. It is also when we are utterly broken, and there is nothing left, that we are often compelled to reach out for God. It is then that our friendship with Him, and our friendship with those closest to us, shines through the brightest.
Pastor Jeff said during his sermon that relationships need to be healthy and that they are meant to naturally progress from a “me, to we, to He” way of thinking. We often go into relationships with only our priorities, wants, and needs in mind. It is all about us. But as we mature we realize that relationships, and life, are not about us. It is about something bigger- God and how we can spend our finite time here in his service and in the service of others. As Micah 6:8 says, and we have quoted on our church website, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
True relationship and true friendship is about maturing as adults and as Christians from a “me” mentality to a “He” mentality. We must not be selfishly focused on ourselves, nor must we be completely fixated on others. We must focus first and foremost on He (Christ). Doing this will help us to love others as He loved us and to pour ourselves into our relationships in a way that is caring and healthy. A real relationship moves past the superficial, it becomes deep in conversation and meaning, and it doesn’t become lopsided. God is first, and as each partner to a friendship becomes a rock of support for the other, they help each other pursue God and keep their emotional tanks full and cared for when life gets rough. Friends help and sharpen each other, learning and growing as adults, intellectuals, and loving Christians through experiences, conversations, and by leading each other by example.
One of the things I have begun to do more of is to simply ask this of my friends: how can I be a better friend? How have I acted selfishly or how have I not seen the big picture? Some of the answers have been good to hear, others more difficult. But because I asked, I can become a better friend and more attentive to others who are struggling. I also know to pause after asking how they are doing. As my personal story showed, sometimes asking “how are you” can be one of the most important questions you will ever ask, or will be asked. It takes a bond of trust and care that is created overtime to get to a place where someone can come to you in their time of need or for you to open up to someone in the midst of crisis.
God loves us and wants us to love each other. Don’t wait to invest more in your relationship with Christ and with each other.
John Dale Grover is a native of San Antonio, Texas and attended Bowdoin College in Maine. Currently he is a graduate student in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. He loves board games and owns way too many books. John is also an advocate for self-care and mental health.