Vale of TearsThe Blessing of Friendship
The Blessing of Friendship
See, I have written your name on My hand . . .
I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves.
Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.
Isaiah 49:16; John 15:15
Do you remember in years past speaking out the name of a loved one, or writing it on the palm of your hand? Even so does the Lord engrave our names in His heart! If His companionship is in a league of its own, and the best antidote to all forms of grief – as we have been hinting throughout this book, the support of friend, comes a good second.
Many of us can identify with Paul’s sense of relief when his friend Titus turned up:
When we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn; conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
How grateful Ros and I are for special friendships that the Lord has forged over many years. When we are in the company of these “day and nighters,” we sense the Lord’s presence more easily, and release timely and authoritative prayers for each other, whilst helping each other to absorb the repeated assaults of grief’s battering ram.
Conventional wisdom has it that it becomes more difficult to form close friendships once we have passed a certain age. God’s leading makes a nonsense of such artificial limitations. He loves to join us to people we can bless and be blessed by, regardless of age considerations. We can even have mothers and fathers in Christ who are younger than ourselves – and can ourselves serve as such for others. (1 Cor. 4:15 make)
Where there is only a narrow window of opportunity during which such friendships can fire up, then God will work fast. One touch from Him can enable new connections to develop farther and deeper in a few focused hours than many other friendships ever progress to in a lifetime.
At any time, the Lord can take existing friendships deeper, or launch entirely new ones. A widow in Tulsa called Shirley was serving breakfast to her children one day when the Lord told her to go to MacDonald’s. She made all the protests that you or I would probably have made having placed their breakfast on the table, but the Lord was insistent and she yielded to her leading.
She will be forever grateful that she did, for it was at that unscheduled MacDonald’s meeting that she met her future husband. A widower minister called Terry Law just happened to be passing through the city at that precise moment, having prayed to meet his future wife. The rest, as they say, is history – but it only came about because Shirley was willing to leave a cooked meal untouched on her breakfast table. It may not be often that the Lord asks us to do such unexpected things, but we must always keep our antennae switched on!
Reflect and Pray
Praise God for friends who allow us as much time and space as we need in which to share our grief and pain. They, above all are the people who help us to rediscover our zest for living, and to become all that we can be in Christ.
Alison Browne, the terminally-ill young lady whose poems we have quoted from extensively in this book, wrote that “a friend’s love pushes aside the veil of tears.” What a lovely thought! She also wrote,
Jesus – at times my love for You grows so urgent in my heart
that I long to hug you physically.
What can I do?
Hug a friend, and in doing so you hug Jesus.
Lord, I never want
to take precious friendships for granted.
Now, in the aftermath of loss and change,
may old friendships continue to grow and mature,
and new ones be forged,
In the Name of our greatest Friend, Amen.