Friendship. Not a small idea!
Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (ESV)
Merriam-Webster defines friendship as: the state of being friends, the relationship between friends, a friendly feeling or attitude, kindness or help given to someone. The obsolete meaning is “aid.”
Is it safe for me to say that many of us have thought at one point in time or another that a particular individual we felt very close to and considered a best friend, turned out not to be so “best,” or even a friend at all for that matter? I think it is, and for those of us who have experienced this disappointment or even betrayal from a friend, the resulting emotional havoc can be overwhelming.
At first we’re “shocked!” That word is apropos because it’s like an unexpected jolt that sends painful, radiating waves through you. Second, we have to try to reconcile ourselves with how we missed the signs, or even worse, maybe we saw it coming but chose to ignore it. Third, we have to accept the dissolution of that relationship and then finally, we must do our very best to move beyond it.
As I mentioned in the title, friendship isn’t a small idea. I claim this because of the commitment the word itself demands. Relationship includes the word, “ship,” which indicates a very big idea! It carries with it a responsibility of not only being “friendly,” but in order to truly demonstrate its full intention, it requires us to be kind to or aid those we consider to be our friends, without selfish motives.
This word, this concept is attenuated when taken lightly. For example, I overheard someone at a restaurant saying that they have more than 300 “friends” on a particular social media website and 920 “followers” on another. I must say that at first, I was pretty impressed, but then it got me thinking.
After a devastating experience as a teenager with someone I thought was my girlfriend, my mom tried to comfort me, reassuring me that this would pass and I would grow from it. She told me that most friends “come and go,” and if one is able to count how many friends they have on one hand then that person is truly blessed! I wonder what she would say about someone having 300 friends!
Today claiming “more than 300 friends” doesn’t seem unusual and in some cases it sounds low, unless of course the idea of having that many friends is prosaic. I can’t help but wonder, if that individual who claims to have that many friends needed to call upon all them for help, would those friends render expeditious aid? How wonderful it would be if they did, for that would be a demonstration of the true meaning of “friend-ship.”
There’s a particular story in the Bible that helped me to gain a clearer understanding of how to be a better friend and expect more from my friends in turn in the book of Job (which you can find in the Old Testament).
Job had three friends, all of whom visited him during the very worst time of his life, when he was tormented and in utter despair. Unfortunately, they didn’t do much to help Job feel any better.
Eliphaz was the first of his so-called friends to enter the scene and he asks Job, “...who that was innocent ever perished?” Here, Eliphaz is primarily accusing Job of bringing his suffering upon himself (Job 4:3-4, 7-8, ESV).
Job’s second so-called friend, Bildad (Job 8:20, ESV), who basically agrees with Eliphaz, just says it differently, intimates that God would not “reject a blameless man, nor take the hand of evildoers.”
The third friend to visit Job is Zophar who supports Elphaz and Bildad by repeating their sentiments and opinions of Job. In fact, this entire exchange of verbiage from these three supposed friends of Job rests entirely on the notion that he is deserving of this crisis because he must’ve done something wrong to manifest it. When in fact, this is in contradiction to what God says about Job in calling him a “righteous man.”
In Job’s condition he did not need friends like those who shared their judgments of what God’s purpose was for him and what caused Job’s grief. He needed friends who would comfort and support him, ones who would open their hearts to compassion and empathy, rather than dig for an explanation for his tragedy.
These three men continue with their rhetoric, which escalates into more damaging comments. Eventually, though, Job realizes that’s not what God intended friendship to look like, and he takes a stand against Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar and the relationships take a turn (see the book of Job).
A true friend loves. A not-so-true friend judges. Taking account of how we act towards the ones we declare to be our friends is more legitimate than counting how many we may have, even if you can only count them on one hand!
ESV-English Standard Version