Henry Adams wrote, “One friend in a lifetime is much, two are many, and three are hardly possible.” While I do not share his pessimism or cynicism, I do believe that true, close friends are certainly not prevalent. There are too many factors at play. Friendships take time, trust, and transparency. Some things can be barriers to developing close companionship from contrasting values to clashing viewpoints.
The Bible gives insight into factors essential to building true, lasting friendships. Since God made man, He knows what makes us tick and operate at our optimism levels. Here are four quick principles:
A Friend Loves At All Times (Proverbs 17:17).
Solomon does not suggest blind loyalty or blanket endorsement. Scripture does not encourage fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:11), but it also points out that we all struggle with sin problems (Rom. 3:23). We also are prone to weak moments and we go through trials and reverses of fortune. It is a blessing to know we have people we can count on to be there even when we’re not at our best or enjoying our mountaintop moments (Heb. 12:12-13; Rom. 12:15).
For The Despairing Man, There Should Be Kindness From His Friend (Job 6:14).
For every one we exchange superficial greetings with, even as we are carrying our hidden cares, we need true friends to turn to for help when we face deep needs in our hours of trial. Rare is the friend who knows, sympathizes, and is ready to help with a kind word or deed. You can imagine how Job’s friends added to his despair by failing to offer that when he needed it most. So many things bring despair–job loss, family crisis, financial reverse, health issues, and other life changes. It is then that astute acts of kindness make a lasting impact and forge true friendships.
If They Fall, One Will Lift Up His Fellow (Ecc. 4:10).
Solomon does not specify whether the falling is physical, emotional, or spiritual. No matter what makes us fall, it is the trustworthy response of a friend that he focuses on. How tragic not to have someone in our lives with a ready hand when we are sinking! What if we are falling away from God (Jas. 5:19-20)? What if we are losing faith or overwhelmed (Mat. 14:30)? “The Lord sustains all who fall” (Ps. 145:14), and what a blessing when He does so through a faithful friend!
Faithful Are The Wounds Of A Friend (Prov. 27:6).
We need people in our lives who are more than “yes” men and women. True friends care enough to correct if we are going off course. We need those who don’t just rubber stamp our speech, validate our every action, or automatically take our side. None of that helps us refine our character or makes us fit for the Master’s use. It’s not easy to tell someone we like and care about that they’ve fallen short in some way, but having a friend that deep and genuine is a true blessing in life.
These passages challenge me to ask, “What kind of friend am I to others?” Am I deeper than a fellow sport’s fan, a person with common interests, or even a co-member of the church? Can I be counted on to be there in the valleys as well as the mountaintop days? Can I be trusted with kindness on despairing days? Am I a lifter? Do I have the courage even to say the difficult things in difficult moments? I want to be that kind of friend to my friends!