How many friends do you have? No, I’m not talking about the number of Facebook acquaintances. I’m talking about close personal friendships—the people that you talk with at least once every couple of months. It could be neighbors, coworkers, church members or lifelong friends.
Now, how many of those close friends are solid, biblically grounded Christians? These are people in whom you see a genuine, vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. Of course, this criteria likely narrows your pool of relationships. For me, this smaller list includes friends from college and seminary as well as individuals in my church small group.
Now, let’s drill down another level. Of these close Christian friends, how many of these relationships go beyond the surface level, past generic discussions about weather, sports, mutual interests, children, etc.? These are people with whom you can share the most personal details of your life, both good and bad. They reflect the type of person referred to in Proverbs 18:24 when it says, “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” They encourage you when you’re down and challenge you in your walk with the Lord.
Taking it a step further, are there people not just whom you can talk with but whom you actually do talk with about these things? You don’t just have them on speed dial in the event of an emergency, but you are regularly walking in close community with them.
I’ll admit that in my busyness, I’ve neglected this deepest level in recent years. Yes, I have good friends in our church small group, and I know most of them would be willing to help at a moment’s notice. But other than a few prayer requests here and there, I haven’t intentionally shared my life with them. I say hello and make small talk on Sundays, but I haven’t personally invested the time and energy into sharing my personal struggles and getting to know theirs as well.
Two scenarios have reawakened me to our desperate need as Christians for a few close godly friends.
The first is a husband and wife I know who have faced difficulties in their marriage and recently filed for divorce. This came as a shock to friends and family because they never saw it coming. When asked if they had any close Christian friends with whom they’d shared their struggles or who could walk through this with them, offering counsel from God’s Word and praying with them, this couple said “no.”
Now these are not fringe church attenders. They are active volunteers in their church and teachers in the children’s ministry. But they have never developed close personal friendships with strong believers in whom they could have shared their marital struggles and received godly counsel and encouragement.
The second is a friend who battles with bouts of anxiety and depression. He is a strong Christian and a leader in his church. For a time, he kept his struggles to himself because he was embarrassed and did not want others to think he was “crazy.” Eventually, though, he shared this struggle with a few close friends who were able to listen, pray and encourage. He admits that sharing his weaknesses was difficult but freeing. Now he’s on the road to recovery with friends by his side.
I fear that too often in churches the first scenario is more likely than the second. Scores of church members are hurting but have isolated themselves from other believers. Facing financial crises, troubled relationships, spiritual dryness, etc., they slap on a happy face and attempt to fight these issues alone.
Maybe that somebody is you.
The writer of Ecclesiastes said it well: “But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up” (Eccl. 4:10).
We were not meant to walk through life alone. Even in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall, God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. Yes, this has implications for marriage, but it also demonstrates how we are created for community. Throughout the Bible, God gathers his people in community.
If you’re like me, God has already surrounded you with at least a few close personal friends with whom you could dive deeper. Give them a call this week, invite them for dinner or coffee, and open up about your life. You may just find a friend closer than a brother.