Do you have friends? Not superficial, partying-and-good-time friends who help you spend your money but are no where to be found when you’re broke or sick–and who aren’t right with God themselves, much less have a concern that you be. Rather, I’m talking about people you can genuinely trust to be there not only when you’re on top of the world, but also when life seems to close in and it’s taking everything you’ve got just to stay above water. More to the point–are you even making an effort to seek out these kinds of friends to whom you can open up and share life with, and who will encourage you to live your life correctly?
“I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.” (Ephesians 6:22)
Let’s face it, we all need friends. Depending on who you are and how you grew up, this may be an obvious point, or it may be very difficult to accept because pride tells us that we can do it all ourselves, and asking for help just doesn’t seem particularly cool. Moreover, if you’ve ever opened up to someone before and been rejected, you may be much less likely to to try to reach out again. Yet, genuine strong friendships are an integral part of what keeps us emotionally–and even physically–healthy.
Years ago now, a study was completed revealing that people who attended church more than once a week were significantly more healthy than those who showed up less often. I don’t remember if the researchers attempted to extrapolate why that was the case, but there are two issues at play.
The first is that people who attend church often typically have a clean conscience and are right with God–something which is very emotionally healing. If we are living lives of disobedience and sin, we tend to avoid religious activities because our consciences bother us and we don’t want a reminder of our wrong-doing. But when we’ve agreed with God that He has the right to call the shots, and line up our lives in obedience and submission to His will for us, we desire and seek out opportunities with other Christians.
The second contributor of well-being for people who attend religious activities often is the strong friendships and support networks they develop within their church with whom they frequently interact with. Certainly, you can share a couple of minutes with others on a Sunday morning, but when you get together regularly for Bible study, prayer, and other activities during the week there are more opportunities to actually share what is on your heart and mind and have it lifted up in prayer by others. This serves a strong therapeutic effect, frequently precluding the need for paid clinical counseling that the non-churched must often seek out.
Of course, although they may be, the best friends need not necessarily be members of our church. They do, however, need to be people who know and love the Lord. They need to understand that obeying Him and being right with Him are existentially important, and they need to know the Bible well enough to be able to advise us rightly. There are few situations as tragic as well-meaning but unqualified individuals who counsel based on personal opinion, rather than according to the Word of God. This is why God warns us repeatedly about choosing good friends, and avoiding bad ones:
“The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (Proverbs 12:26)
“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” (Proverbs 13:20)
“Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips.” (Proverbs 14:7 NIV)
“Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning…” (1 Corinthians 15:33-34 NIV)
Ultimately, it matters that we have friends, and that they be good people who know and honor God:
“Happy are those who don’t listen to the wicked [those who reject God and what He says], who don’t go where sinners [those who reject God and what He says] go, who don’t do what evil people [those who reject God and what He says] do. They love the LORD’s teachings, and they think about those teachings day and night [they care about what God says–they think about it a lot!]. They are strong, like a tree planted by a river. The tree produces fruit in season, and its leaves don’t die. Everything they do will succeed. But wicked people are not like that. They are like chaff that the wind blows away. So the wicked will not escape God’s punishment…This is because the LORD takes care of his people, but the wicked will be destroyed.” (Psalms 1:1-6 NCV)
So, do you have friends? More to the point, are you developing friendships with, and opening up to, the right kinds of friends–those who know and love Jesus, who will advise you rightly so you don’t mess up your life? If not, it’s not too late to make a change!
Help me walk with the wise that I may become wise! Amen.