Paul Derengowski, ThM
The Bible says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17).
Have you ever wondered what a friend truly is and why it is he/she is hard to come by?
Lately, I have had two people who claimed to be my friend, but when adversity arose or they took on a air of offense, they were gone in a New York minute.
It is something I have thought about, from time-to-time; what a friend is and why some seem to have oodles of people constantly hanging around them, while others struggle to have anyone around during the peaks and valleys of life.
According to the biblical reference above, a friend is someone who loves at all times.
The idea of continuous love (Gr. philos) or to share a trusted companionship with another person, regardless of the adversity, is descriptive of what a true friend is.
It is probably why the writer of the Proverb followed up his description of a friend with a comment about a brother; he is born for adversity.
Yet, in both instances, the writer is writing in very broad, general terms, because there are all kinds of people who claim to be friends, and even brothers (or sisters), that will turn on a dime and betray someone they claim to be a friend.
All it takes is a word they perceive to be wrong or a decision they do not like and poof!
A friend loves at all times, not just when one party is garnering all the good things that come from a friendship.
Because not each waking day is necessarily going to be good. Life if frequently filled with heartaches and disappointments.
A true friend understands the ups and downs of life and is willing to share in both with those who also understand that everyone, including our enemies, are on the same roller-coaster.
Love, though, is the key to not only a lasting friendship, but a stable one as well.
“Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8a).
Recently, I had a “friend” tell me that he “loved me like a brother,” only to turn around and abandon me like I was his worst enemy. Why? Because I would not bow to his manipulation.
He wanted me to drop everything I was doing, get up at 4 a.m. the next morning, drive 150 miles, and umpire all day long, basically for free.
I told him, “no,” and have not heard from his since. That was three months ago.
One reason why so many marriages fail, I believe, is because the husband and wife were not true friends before saying “I do.”
Oh, they really liked each other and the premarital sex was probably pretty outstanding too, but they were not genuine friends.
They were simply using each other. Stated bluntly, their “friendship” was in their pants, not in their hearts. It was about lust, not love.
So, when the hard times came, instead of working through them, as friends in love, they turned on each other, stabbing each other in the back, thinking more about themselves than their partner, whom they vowed to stay with, “Till death do us part.”
True, blue friends are extremely hard to come by, especially today, because society, both in and out of the church, has adopted a dog-eat-dog mentality.
Instead of making friends for the right reasons, “friends” are made to advance careers, positions in life, and that glorious day of retirement.
Too many use people for their own selfish gain and when the using is up, they are stabbed in the back, while blaming them for some kind of impropriety.
It has been said that if a person can go through life and make one or two genuine friends, then that person has done well.
A word to the wise, therefore, would be (1) if you are going to be a friend, then be ready to love at all times, (2) if someone wants to be your friend, be careful of their motives, and (3) do not be overly anxious at making too many friends, because they are few and far between.
As the Bible says, “A man of many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).
It is the one that sticks closer than a brother that is your friend, and the kind of friend you want to be.
It is not the one who will immediately drop you like a hot rock, when you say or do something that does not fit his idea of friendship or love.