In his account, every relationship he knew was a disappointment. His father was emotionally distant. His mother was more interested in her social life than in her family. His bosses were ‘idiots.’ His children were ingrates. Tom (a pseudonym) had a painful story, but somewhere in it, he missed a part. He only saw the pain and in his cynicism, he was, at least by the time we talked, part of the problem since he trusted no one.
Everyone experiences failures in human relationships due to the misunderstandings and missed expectations that are a part of life. But, Jesus taught us to be forgiving, to break the cycle of retribution and retaliation by reflecting His love into our broken, sinful world. Tom insisted that he would not forgive, nor would he trust anyone. “It’s just Jesus and me now,” he said without joy.
Thinking about our conversation, I could not help but see the contrast. I have experienced some terrible disappointments in people over the years. I have leaned on some only to find that they were like the “reed that splinters beneath your weight and pierces your hand.” (Isaiah 36:6) Others have turned against me without explanation. But, I also have known amazing joy in partnership in the work of the Lord. The terrible sorrow and loss of my life in these last 2 years would be unbearable were it not for a wide circle of people that I love and who love me, who have cried and prayed with me. More than money, more than stuff; my wealth is found in the people in whom I am invested.
Do you think that all you need is Jesus? Truly He is a “friend that is closer than a brother.” Even those who are close to Christ, filled with the Spirit, need people. A dinner tastes better when it’s served at a table with a friend. A heavy burden is lighter when there is someone who cares. A renowned psychologist said that his profession would barely exist if people maintained strong ties to friends and family. He provides, for a fee, what people once gave to one another freely: advice, support, a listening ear, and reinforcement for sound choices. The Word’s wisdom says that “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17, NIV) Knowing this, I refuse to try to do life like the Lone Ranger, protecting my heart from pain in isolation.
In Ecclesiastes, Solomon breaks into his cynical rant of frustration over life’s vanity with this gem: “If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:10-12, NIV) We stand shoulder to shoulder. Oh, that God would keep us connected and teach us to assign a higher priority to staying in our circle where there is safety.
Friends can either lift us to higher heights or drag us into the pit. Given that amazing influence we do well to choose our close friends carefully. Psalm 1 warns of spending inordinate amounts of time with mockers who reject God’s ways, with sinners who live willfully, and among the wicked who serve Self. Their attitudes will rub off on you. Disciples are called out of the world and into the Body of Christ. It’s not that we refuse to be-friend those who are yet to come to faith in Christ, but we recognize that we need to join our heart with those who share our love of Jesus. Jesus loved sinners! So should we. However, our closest friends must be friends of God.
Here’s a word from the Word. “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet. Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home. Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel. Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father, and do not go to your brother’s house when disaster strikes you— better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.” (Proverbs 27:6-10, NIV)
Blest Be The Tie (click here for the story of this hymn)
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above
Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers
Our fears our hopes our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares
We share each other’s woes
Our mutual burdens bear
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear
When we asunder part
It gives us inward pain
But we shall still be joined in heart
And hope to meet again
This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way
While each in expectation lives
And longs to see the day
From sorrow toil and pain
And sin we shall be free
And perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity
© Words: Public Domain