Read: Proverbs 16-18
There are deep and important thoughts in today’s reading, but this one speaks to me louder than the rest at this particular time in my life:
A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
Friends don’t happen overnight, to be sure, but the period from introduction to locking-arms-friendship is greatly reduced when going through adversity. The test of true friendship lies in difficult times. Of course, personal character has a whole lot to do with the process and this is the central theme of Proverbs, so it’s no surprise to dive into the concept of friendship in the middle of the book.
This should be one key trait that separates us, Christ-followers, from the rest of the world. Should be. Can be. Will be every time we invest time and take the great risk of developing meaningful friendships beyond our family units–what a concept! The reality is, we don’t look all that different from the rest of the world. I don’t have all the stats at my fingertips, but reliable sources tell us again and again how much we look like the rest of society. This is not good news. Not that we should be place on a pedestal of any kind; however, as the body of Christ, we should get along better than the PTA and civic organizations. After all, we have been adopted by the Lord of Creation!
Chapter 16 begins with seven proverbs that compare us to the Lord.
- from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.
- motives are weighed by the Lord.
- the Lord will establish your plans.
- the Lord works out everything to its proper end
- The Lord detests all the proud of heart.
- through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided.
- When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them.
We have the Ten Commandments, the Great Commandment and a ton of proverbs as tools to distinguish us as the people of God. We don’t need a checklist or program to keep us in line, what we need are true friends that remind us of these truths that all emanate from God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We need an effective community of believers, aka church, that is focused on learning these principles and living them out daily. I can’t wait to get into the study of Acts!
These two proverbs break my heart:
A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
The human spirit can endure in sickness,
but a crushed spirit who can bear?
Proverbs 17:22, 18:14
So often we’re distracted by our own issues that we don’t see the crushed spirit of the person standing right in front of us. So many times I’ve prayed for discernment, for the ability to see a person as God sees them. When I stop and listen, take time to hear what is unsaid, I change the way I look at the rude, loud, abrasive and rather obnoxious people; I see the quiet, shy, hidden and withdrawn who are truly mourning — all who Jesus Christ willingly accepted the brutal punishment of the cross for.
Friends, centered on Christ, are precious.
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Seems fitting to conclude this post with one last thought about friends. Some years ago, I don’t remember exactly, we sang a song by Delirious, What A Friend I’ve Found. This truly intimate song honors the incredible relationship that Jesus offers to us:
I have called you friends,
for everything that I learned from my Father
I have made known to you.
Everything. Forever. How can we not share this Good News?