“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)
Sometimes friends come into our lives for a season and other times they remain there for life. Regardless of the length of time we have some friends, all friendships have a purpose, usually meeting our needs for companionship, help, fun or refreshment.
As I’ve thought about the friends I’ve had over the years, floods of pleasant memories rush through my mind. When I was growing up, my family moved several times, and my circle of friends changed with each move, but the memories with my childhood friends are all the same – playing after school at each other’s houses, enjoying the toys in someone else’s room (I particularly remember liking the Strawberry Shortcake collection one of my friends had), running from yard to yard to play hide and seek, and riding bikes for miles around the neighborhood.
As a teenager, I enjoyed long phone conversations with my best friends (much to the annoyance of my brother who wanted the phone to talk to his girlfriend), going to the lake with one friend each summer, and writing letters to my best friend from ninth grade when she moved across the country. In college, I enjoyed friendships made through my classes, school-related activities and Bible studies. These friends encouraged me through tough class schedules, heartbreaks and career decisions.
As a young single woman, my friends were mostly in the same station of life as I was, and we encouraged each other as we waited for our Prince Charming. When I got married, my husband became my best friend, but I also developed other friendships with women both younger and older than myself. These ladies helped me to be a better wife and mom.
Reflecting on all of my different friends through the years and how they helped me through seasons of life, I believe they shared some common characteristics that help me define the word friend:
F aithful “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24
Refreshing “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” Proverbs 27:9
I ntercedes for us “My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.” Job 16:20-21
E ncourages us “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. ” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
N udges us to be our best “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
D iscourages wrong behavior “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Proverbs 27:5-6
My lifetime friendships have one thing in common: God. Because friends are usually brought together through a common interest, when faith in God is that common interest, he becomes the glue that holds them together. Proverbs 17:17 reminds us that true friends know our ugly side and still love us and gladly help us in our times of need. As you remember your closest friends today, thank the Lord for them!