Friends: the ultimate collectable

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like without friends? I’ve lived and worked in enough places over my lifetime my collection of friends is as variegated as a tie-dyed shirt. Those friendships also vary in intensity, depth, and splash. Past friendships have been folded into the deep lining now, but they are still nestled there a product of fond memories. Other friendships are vibrant today and provide intermittent bursts of happiness just by ‘being’; some friends are silently aware, transparently supportive.  A few friendships are the subtle, sustaining relationships that are solid and unmoving. Have you ever had a friend who, even though there are years between meetings, you seem to pick up right where you left off in your relationship?  It’s like an invisible bookmark saves your place.  Friendships! Some shallow, some deep –  all important relationships. 3 John 2

I started thinking a lot about how blessed I have been by my friendships.  I remember hearing from the time I was able to say the word ‘friend’ that to have friends you first have to be a friend. That’s probably how I started my cherished collection of friends.  While reading the book of Job, I noticed the role his friends played in his life.  I was heartsick when I noticed the deterioration of Job’s friends as his calamity mounted.  The more discouragement and loss Job experienced, the more he needed his friends, but look what happened!  In the first part of Job, he has supportive friends.  Job 2:11 “When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him.” But as Job’s life continues to plummet, his friends become frienemies.  Job 12:4 “Yet my friends laugh at me, for I call on God and expect an answer. I am a just and blameless man, yet they laugh at me.” Job 16:20 “My friends scorn me, but I pour out my tears to God.” Job 19:19 “My close friends detest me. Those I loved have turned against me.”

Amazing Job!  He is my hero because after all that, look what Job does in Job 42:10 “When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!”  Job prayed for his friends – his frienemies.  Forgiveness and I’m sure Job prayed for God to bless them despite their treatment of him.  I remember the longing for true friendships in another life – King David’s.  Instead he recounts his vulnerabilities in Psalm 25:2 “My God, I trust in you. Please do not let me be humiliated; do not let my enemies triumphantly rejoice over me!” And again he recognizes God’s approval of him, but laments in Psalm 41:11 “I know that you are pleased with me,  for my enemy does not triumph over me.”

Job has been one of my heroes for other reasons, but knowing the rejection he went through when he needed to be accepted and encouraged, puts him a few more chinks higher on the hero scale.  After reading Job, I had to study a few more places to find out how to be a great friend, one who supports, encourages, inspires, and lives true friendship out loud.  YAY!  I found shareable truths about beautiful results of friendships.

Proverbs 18:24 “A person who has friends may be harmed by them, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  Proverbs 17:9 “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.”  Luke 15:6 “he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me …’” then a few verses later – Luke 15:9And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me…” Be happy with me…celebrate with me…be thankful with me…that’s what friends do.

One of my favorites – 2 Corinthians 12:19 “Everything we do, dear friends, is to strengthen you.”  Wow! Everything we do – dear friends – is to give you strength.  We can’t get much more definitive than that.  And how can we be that friend? It starts with a relationship with God and his son the Lord Jesus Christ.  Romans 5:11 “We rejoice in our relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”

Today, know that you are loved, you have friends, and your reward today is in relationships. 1John 4:11 “Dear friends, if God so loved us, then we also ought to love one another. If we love one another, God resides in us, and his love is perfected in us.” And then there were friends.

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