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An Encouraging Friend


We’ve all got that friend who we get into trouble with. We’ve also got that friend who’s got our back no matter what. But do you have that friend who will seek you out and encourage you while you’re down? In my darkest times, when most friends deserted me, I had a handful of people who wouldn’t let me give up. I had a brother who called every day, a coworker who made me go to work each day and another friend who would just hang out so I’d have company. 

It’s good to have friends, but we all need those friends who won’t leave us when the going gets tough. We need a friend like Jonathon was to David. Jonathon’s dad, Saul, was out to kill David, so he was hiding in the wilderness with about 600 warriors. Not one of those 600 did for David what Jonathon did. They would have given their life for him, but they weren’t able to encourage him when he needed it most.

In I Samuel 23:16 it says, “Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God” (NLT). Jonathon risked his own life to encourage his friend and to help him stay strong in his faith. That’s the kind of friend we all need. There aren’t just times when we need encouragement. There are times when we all struggle in our faith. When our world is crashing and we don’t see how God will keep His promise, we need that friend who will remind us of all God has done for us.

Not only do we need that friend in our life, we need to be that friend to others. We need to get attentive to the needs of those around us. We need to be the ones who go to them in their hour of need. It’s not their responsibility to come to you when they need encouragement. Often they don’t have the strength or their pride holds them back. We each need to be the friend that we will need at some point in our life. We need to be a friend that encourages. 

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The Best Friend 

  
I don’t know of a greater friendship in the Bible than that of David and Jonathan. I Samuel 18 says their souls were knit together. Jonathan knew he was next in line to be king, but also knew that God had anointed David for that role. He gladly gave up his rights to the throne for his friend. His loyalty was to what God wanted and not what he was entitled to, and it showed in his actions.

When Saul was desperately trying to kill David, Jonathan would warn him. He helped David escape. On one such occasion in I Samuel 23, Saul was trying to find him, but God hid David. In verse 16 it says, “Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God” (NLT). To me, that’s what real friends do. They go to their friend in need and encourage them to trust God and to stay strong in their faith.

David didn’t have to tell Jonathan he was tired of living in caves, constantly having to hide, or that he was hungry. He didn’t have to tell him that he was doubting that God knew his situation and was telling God to wake up. As a friend, Jonathan proactively went to David and encouraged him. He prayed for him and stood by him in the struggle even if it meant his own father would kill him. He didn’t care about the consequences to his own life.

I would venture to say that many of us don’t have a friend like that and aren’t willing to go to that extreme for someone. However, each one of us can encourage another friend to stay strong in their faith. Each one of us can go to someone in need to stand in the gap for them and to pray for them when they don’t have the strength or faith to do it themselves. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and is born, as is a brother, for adversity” (AMP). Be like Jonathan and love your friends in the good times and in the bad. Be there for them in adversity and encourage them when they’re weak. God will honor you if you do.

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Faithful Friends

When life gets hard, you find out who your true friends are. Hard times have a way of weeding out acquaintances and fair weather friends. There are those who will stand by your side through the darkest night and those who will abandon you the moment bad things start coming your way. It’s hard to tell them apart until your faced with adversity. Proverbs 18:24 says, “Some friendships do not last, but some friends are more loyal than brothers” (GNB).

As you read that, I’m sure names are popping in your head. You can think of those who abandoned you, but you can also think of those who have stood by your side. It’s easy to get mad at those who have fallen by the wayside, but the truth is, you don’t have to be mad at them. You don’t need those kinds of relationships in your life. Let them go and wish them well. Don’t hold grudges against them because it may mess up your lifelong relationships.

We like to think of the parable of the Prodigal Son as a story about returning to God, but I believe it’s also about friendships. When he had his inheritance and was living recklessly, I’m sure he had a lot of friends. When his money ran out and the famine hit, where were those friends? No one offered him shelter. No one offered him money. No one offered him food. He realized that the friendships he developed were poor ones and he thought of home. He realized he hadn’t been a good friend to them.

He learned that friendships and relationships are a two way street. Relationships that are one way, don’t last. He went back to the relationships that mattered and they accepted him back. While hard times can take away friendships that are one way, they can also drive us back to the ones that matter. If you haven’t been the type of person who was loyal to others, ask for their forgiveness and try to work things out. If you’ve found a friend that is more loyal than a brother, reach out to them today and thank them for being in your life. 

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10 Scriptures On Friendship

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1. As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17 NLT)

2. Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble. (Proverbs 17:17 MSG)

3. If you want people to like you, forgive them when they wrong you. Remembering wrongs can break up a friendship. (Proverbs 17:9 GNB)

4. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13 NLT)

5. Don’t leave your friends or your parents’ friends and run home to your family when things get rough; Better a nearby friend than a distant family. (Proverbs 27:10 MSG)

6. Oil and perfume rejoice the heart; so does the sweetness of a friend’s counsel that comes from the heart. (Proverbs 27:9 AMP)

7. Friends mean well, even when they hurt you. But when an enemy puts an arm round your shoulder — watch out! (Proverbs 27:6 GNB)

8. Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family. (Proverbs 18:24 MSG)

9. When you please the Lord, you can make your enemies into friends. (Proverbs 16:7 GNB)

10. Reliable friends who do what they say are like cool drinks in sweltering heat—refreshing! (Proverbs 25:13 MSG)

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Opening Closed Curtains

When my first wife left me, I went into a deep depression. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to lay down and not have to worry about getting up. I was ready to quit everything: my business, my friendships, my obligations and my life. I couldn’t find the strength I needed to face each new day. I couldn’t stand to see the sun come up and remind me that another day had begun in this new life. I bought thick curtains so I could block the light from coming in.

Those curtains were very symbolic of what I was trying to do to everything else in my life. I wanted to block out everything good around me. Other’s happiness just made me more miserable. In fact, it made me bitter and angry. I didn’t want to see others who were happily married or in a fulfilling relationship. If I knew someone in my life like that, I closed the curtains on them. If someone was happy and bubbly, I shut the curtains on them. If someone tried to reach out to me to cheer me up, I slammed them shut on them.

Slowly I began to isolate myself from the positive things in my life. My world grew darker and darker. My brother took me to a doctor who put me on anti-depressants. The thought that I had to take a pill to cope with things made me upset. All they did to me were to numb the pain I was feeling. I felt like a zombie as I went through the motions of life. I still wanted the curtains shut and worked at pushing others away. Thank God I had friends and family who wouldn’t let me keep the curtains closed.

Every time I shut the curtains, they would open them. Every time I pushed away, they came closer. One friend would come to my house each morning at 9:30, knock on my door and tell me to get up because people needed me. Day after day she would knock on my door and throw the curtains of my life open. If I didn’t show up to work soon after that, she’d call and throw them open again. Soon I began to get up on my own. I began to find purpose in my life.

Just because the person who was supposed to love me through thick and thin, through sickness and health, through riches and poverty until death had rejected me it didn’t mean that others had. Because she didn’t need me in her life, it didn’t mean that others didn’t. As I began to slowly open the curtains and to allow light back into my life, I quit taking the medicine with my doctor’s approval. Each day, I opened the curtains a little more, even when I didn’t want to. I had to force myself to get back to the person I knew I could be. I had to quit pushing everyone away. It was a long, hard road, but one that was worth struggling down.

I wonder what part of this story speaks to you. Where are you today? Are you the one holed up in your world with the curtains closed trying to keep the light out? Are you the one who just wants to quit at everything and let the world pass you by? Have you found yourself letting the light in a little at a time? Are you a friend who has been pushed away by someone you love or care about? Or are you the friend who keeps knocking and opening the curtains for those who close them? I think we find ourselves in one of these places at some point.

If you are in a deep depression, seek help from your doctor, church, family and friends. It’s not weak to admit you need help. In fact, it’s one of the strongest things you can do. If you know someone struggling, don’t let them push you away. Keep knocking on their door. Don’t have thin skin. They need you more than you know. You can’t quit on them even if they’ve quit on you and everything else. Pray for them. Pray that you will have wisdom and favor when trying to reach them. Pray that God will show you how to open their curtains and let His light in.

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Friends in Need

I have several friends going through some difficult times right now. Some have lost a parent, others have been given news that one of their parents has a terminal disease, one is fighting for her life in ICU and another going through a painful divorce. I’m sure there are others who have kept their struggles private not wanting to bother anyone else. This year has started off very difficult for a lot of people I know.

While every circumstance is unique, their pains and fears can be empathized with. When I went through a difficult period in my life, I was the one who didn’t want to bother others with my pain. People didn’t know how to respond. Some would say, “Time heals all wounds.” Others would say, “What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.” Then there were those who would not know what to say and simply say, “I’m sorry.” I’ve often thought about what could someone have said to ease the pain.

For me, I think there was nothing anyone could have said. Pain, loss and suffering are part of the furnace of life. It’s what molds us, strengthens us and pushes us onto other paths. There were no words that could have brought the healing I desperately needed. Looking back, I simply wanted someone to love me enough to stand by me in the hard times. Someone who would put their arm around me and say, “You’re not alone in this.”

One of my friends, who is going through one of these situations right now, once said, “When you have someone to stand with you through thick and thin, pain is divided and joy is multiplied.” While I can’t take the hurt, fears or questions away, I can stand with my friends to help divide their pain. Platitudes don’t bring much relief, but actions do. One action each of these friends can use right now is prayer.

When you struggle through difficult times like these, you need others who will lift you up and pray for you. When you don’t have the strength or words to pray for yourself, it helps to know that other believers are standing in the gap and fighting on your behalf. Psalm 28:7 says the Lord is our strength and shield. That’s what these people need. They need strength to make it through each day. They need protection from other things that would come against them when they’re down. They need peace that passes all understanding to come into their lives.

When there are no answers to the question of “Why”, God can still give peace in the midst of a storm. We may not understand why each of us experience these difficult times, but we can rest in the peace of knowing our God walks with us in difficult times. We can find comfort in knowing that God is still on His throne and He sees us in our dark times. He still heals. He still comforts. He still answers prayers. He still comes to those in need. May He do all of these to my friends in need and anyone reading this in need.

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