A few years ago, I engaged in serious reflection on my spiritual journey over the past 40 years. It has not been an easy journey. There were ups and downs. I realised that without the help of my friends, I could not have come thus far. When I was discouraged, they put their arms around me to encourage me. When I failed, they were there to restore me. When I made mistakes, they admonished and corrected me with love. When I was lonely, they came around and stood by my side. When I cried, they comforted me. When I was in need, they provided for me. They prayed for me when I went to be a missionary.
And this is why I treasure friendship. Good friendship edifies and builds us up. Godly friendship gives us a healthy spiritual and social dimension. A godly friend stands with us not only on occasion but “loves at all times” (Prov 17:17).
Jonathan and David are a classic example of good friendship. Their friendship crossed all barriers of status and position. Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved David as himself (1 Sam 18:1).
In fact, Jonathan knew that David would be a strong contender to the throne to which Jonathan was a legitimate heir. Yet, he risked his own life to protect David. They were lasting friends. Even after Jonathan’s death, David showed kindness to Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth (2 Sam 9). Such was their friendship.
We need to be thankful to God for giving us friends who are a source of strength for us. When all others leave us, it is a good friend who sticks with us, sometimes “closer than a brother” (Prov 18:24). Jesus Himself said, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15), and exemplified His friendship and love by laying down His life for His friends (John 15:13).
It is possible that ‘friends’ may desert us in times of crisis. When Jesus was going through His intense struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane, the very disciples who He called friends failed to support him in prayer (Mark 14:37). When Jesus was arrested, “everyone deserted him and fled” (Mark 14:50). At such crucial times, Jesus was left alone.
We all need friends. In my pastoral ministry, I have often come across loners. They are withdrawn and isolated. Isolation is not healthy for a Christian. God said that it is not good for man to be alone and so He created us as social beings too.
Friendships are not built that easily. It takes conscious effort to build a strong friendship. True friendship does not break that easily either. It grows stronger in times of troubles. Good friends are God-given gifts to us. Let us treasure our friendships.
When I was discouraged, they put their arms around me to encourage me. When I failed, they were there to restore me. When I made mistakes, they admonished and corrected me with love. When I was lonely, they came around and stood by my side. When I cried, they comforted me. When I was in need, they provided for me. They prayed for me when I went to be a missionary.
In closing, let us reflect on a few questions: “Do I have godly friends?” If yes, “Do I treasure these friendships?” and “How can I make them long-lasting friendships?” If no, “How can I be a godly friend to others?” and “How do I build strong and long-lasting friendships?”
The Rev R. Prabhu was elected President of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC) in 2012 for the quadrennium. He is also Pastor-in-Charge of Ang Mo Kio Tamil Methodist Church.