“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Galatians 6:1-3 ESV
Can we talk for a minute about friends? I almost want to capitalize it; Friends – because what I’m about to wax on about is a proper friend. A good friend. The treasured few that make up your tribe. I believe the younglings call them your squad, and somehow there are goals involved. The Jonathans to your David. The Patricks to your Spongebob. You know what I’m saying. Your friends are truly among the chiefest of delights God has given you on this earth. They are your confidants, confessors, comedic relief, counselors, and companions. They help as fellow sharpening irons, as sounding boards, as mirrors. They can be a beacon of light pointing you Home when you’ve lost the way. They can shine that light directly into your eyeballs when you need it. A good friend is a GIFT, my fellow humans.
When I think of the friendships I’ve been given, I am grateful. Not Instagram #blessed, but take-your-breath-away grateful. When I was young in the faith, I used to pray for God to send me good friends, and oh, how He did. I’m so grateful for God’s faithfulness in His ‘setting the lonely in family‘, of seeing His goodness in the land of the living. He has given me friends – lifelong friends, new friends, old friends – and they all in their different and special ways point me closer to Him, while we all enjoy the rich bounty of His hands together.
There’s a delight in knowing that God has entrusted a part of your heart to another, and a part of their heart to you, while you both walk together through the peaks and valleys of life. But there’s also a responsibility to it; and lately I’ve been a little more aware of both the glory, and the weight, of friendship. The beauty, and the burden. This burden is light, and in itself is truly an honor to bear. But I think it’s something that we owe diligence to.
In the course of intimacy in friendship, we are beneficiaries of all types of blessings. Is there anything like that gut busting laughter that comes from inside jokes built over the course of decades? Like, legitimate ‘pee-in-your-pants in the parking lot of Wegmans’ laughter? (If you don’t do that, me neither. I just know someone who does.) Is there anything like sharing a glance that conveys unspoken words understood by a kindred spirit? Anything like the reassurance that comes with the “You too?! I thought it was just me!” that follows a confession, settling your spirit in peace? Anything like the rock-solid steadiness of knowing your lowest lows aren’t suffered alone? Or the beaming joy of seeing a good friend functioning in their highest gifts and glory?
It’s easy to see why Christ spoke so much of us being known by our love, marked by our unity; because it is so good. Over the course of years in a friendship, you come to know just how much joy is hidden in these jars of clay. But there is another beauty to friendship, and that’s the knowing and bearing with one another’s weaknesses; their besetting sins, their character flaws, and everything else that makes up our humanity. There’s a type of trust hidden in that knowledge. When we are entrusted by God with the heart of a friend, I believe we’re responsible to steward, and to care, and to exhort, and to pray for them – and I think if we could appreciate that solemn responsibility, oh how we would see each other soar.
Our closest friends get to see the parts of us that most people don’t see, and vice versa. When their hearts are hurting, or wearied by the sin that so easily besets us all, who better to lift them up in prayer but we who know them well? Not just who better, but who else can? Those few, close friends where you see all their ugly and they see all yours? – steward them well. Steward them well, and love them fiercely. When they share their grief with you, bear them up to the Father. When they confess their struggle for the billionth time, comfort them and pray with them. When they’re struggling at work, lift those issues up. When their family comes to visit, pray for them. When their kids are sick, intercede how you’d want them to intercede for you. When you have an intimate friendship, you’ve been given a sacred trust; God is entrusting you to love one of His children as He does. It is now our glory and our responsibility to intercede for them; to lift their burdens to the Father in a beautiful reflection of what Christ does for us.
But can I go a step further? When they hurt you, lift them up. When they have a bad day and are callous offhand, pray for their hearts. When the enemy chooses that day to steady his arrow on the shoulder of one you love, choose to look past the friend to the real foe, and do the work that needs to be done on your knees in prayer. Because we know we don’t fight against flesh and blood, right? When someone in your circle says that thing, in just that way, that gets under your last nerve in your last square inch of skin, you know it’s not them you’re wrestling with, right? We have a common enemy, and it isn’t them.
When you could choose offense, choose to bear the burden instead. Choose the unity that is so pleasing to Christ, that is so necessary to mature Christian love. It is worth it. Friendship is worth it. When they don’t bite their tongue, bite yours for them. Bear with one another’s burdens, and in this way, fulfill the law of Christ. What is the law of Christ? To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Pray for them, dear brothers and sisters. Pray for their weaknesses, pray for their flaws, pray for their sanctification and holiness, and for your own, and for God to be glorified in it all as we grow to be more like Him.
Our world is so hungry for this. For that unconditional, forbearing commitment to one another, at the expense of ourselves, for the sake of Christ. Truly, it is how Christ said we would be known; by our love for each other. I don’t think the familial language He uses in calling us His Bride, and in calling each other brothers and sisters, is an accident. The bond of friendship is a gift, full of deep joy and richness, but it’s also a beacon of hope. Because in an ideal world, there’s no divorcing your family. There’s crazy uncles, sure, but they’re your crazy uncle, and you love them anyway. We should be marked by a commitment to love each other – an irrational love, beyond affinity, beyond preference – for the sake of each other and for the sake of Christ. The gift of friendship affords such great rewards, but it also demands nothing less than our active effort in seeking the other’s benefit. Can you think of your friends with more purpose this week? Can you think of ways to love them well? Can you think of any wounded members of your tribe? Can you help them to heal, to forgive, to be reconciled where it’s needed?
I recognize that while some who read this can relate all too well, there may be others who read this and feel genuine grief or loneliness. You don’t have your tribe, or you’ve lost them and don’t know where to find them. Can I encourage you in the Lord? You can ask Him for friends. Pray for them; for good, God-fearing, long-suffering, godly friends who will speak the truth in love to you and whom you can love well.
I was a card-carrying certified jerk in my younger years; a tad overly-needy, and obnoxious, and basically your garden-variety EGR* human. But God surrounded me with long suffering humans who loved me and had a great sense of humor, (also a great thing to ask the good Lord for) and a whole gaggle of them are still around to this day – may many blessings and marigolds be upon them. I say this to encourage you that if I can make friends, you can make friends. God doesn’t have favorites, and if He can fill my friendship cup to overflowing all over the kitchen table, He can do the same for you. Proverbs is full of wisdom on how to be a good friend, which is where gaining your tribe starts, ironically. If you are seeking the Lord daily, and you’re fellowshipping with His humans in any sort of local church capacity, I’m going to guess He’s strategically plopped some future BFF’s in your proximity already. Just keep an eye out for opportunities to love someone, and ask the Giver of all good gifts for your special friends. And if you’ve already got your friend basket full, thank God for them and love them well.
Pray for them, appreciate them, and love them well.
All my love,
*extra grace requiring