It has been a challenging year, and there have been many weeks and months when we have had to be separated from those we love to spend time with. But who is it that has made the effort to reach out to you, to let you know they still care? And who are the people you know you can rely on, in the bad times as well as the good?

Friendship is biblical

I love how the Bible is full of examples of close friendships, such as David and Jonathan, as well as Jesus with Peter, James and John.

There are also many verses about friendship – such as: “Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family” (Proverbs 18:24, The Message).

There are so many ‘one anothering’ verses in the New Testament, which reveal the traits of friendship. Here are just a couple:

“Serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13).
How can you serve your friends best? Do you know what their pressing needs are?

“Spur one another on towards love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
We need those in our lives who encourage us to be the best we can be – and who we do the same for.

Having each other’s backs

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” I’m reminded of how my friends have helped me when I’ve been struggling – and vice versa.

There are actually two amazing women who I would have say have been doing this for me faithfully for a long time now. One I have known since university (which was far too many years ago!) and the other I met much later when she moved to our area and joined our church. Both are so dear to me.

As my speaking ministry has grown, they have often travelled with me to events and I have felt the power of their prayers and encouragement holding me up, even when I have felt tired and weak. The image that has often come to mind to us all is that of Moses with his arms raised up – as long as his arms were up Joshua and the Israelite army beat the Amalekites. But when his arms got tired: “they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up – one on one side, one on the other – so that his hands remained steady till sunset” (Exodus 17:12). My friends have been incredible ‘Aaron’ and ‘Hur’s to me.

Not afraid to speak out

True friends have the courage to bring challenge and correction – it isn’t always easy, and I know I’ve been prickly at times when I’ve been on the receiving end. However, when I take time to ponder, I always recognise the truth of this proverb: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:5-6). Of course, we must weigh what our friends say to us, but when we have those around us that we really do trust, their words are worth taking seriously.

Just this week one has gently brought a suggestion to me, and reminded me of a time when I did the same for her. When a friend cares deeply, they cannot stay silent.

Friends come from many sources

I believe that God wants us to be open-handed rather than cliquey with our friendships. I also think he likes to surprise us with those who may come into our lives unexpectedly but end up being a wonderful source of love and care, even if it is just for a season. Our editor, Tola-Doll, experienced the unexpected gift of a new close friend during lockdown, which Jemimah Wright wrote about in the December 2020 issue.

If you know you are blessed with great friendship, why not view today as an opportunity to let them know how much you appreciate them – in whatever way you know they would most like to be told.

If you are reading this and feel the sting of not having a close friendship, can I gently encourage you to pray specifically for a friend. As a tween, I moved to a new area and, when we visited what would become our church, two girls (twins) my age rushed over excited, saying they had been praying for a friend – and there I was! While it was quite overwhelming at the time, they did both become good friends of mine – I was particularly close to one throughout my teenage years. So, be open to God surprising you!