Last week we had such a good discussion over the proverb that talks about “a friend closer than a brother.” Sometimes our most faithful friends are not biological family, but the family of God.
But this week we are going to consider not whom we should look to for faithfulness, but how we are ourselves can be faithful.
A few years ago I received a letter from a husband of a young woman I mentored twenty years ago in another state, admonishing me for not living up to what I expressed in my book on friendship, saying I had failed his wife in not continuing to be a real friend to her. I took his criticism before the Lord, but the Lord freed me, and I wrote back explaining that his wife was truly special, and I loved her, but that the mentoring was for a season, and though I’d like to stay in touch, I wasn’t one who could continue to be there for her at the same level of friendship, for I wanted to have time to mentor other women the Lord brought to me. The husband graciously received this, and I was thankful.
(In the same way, I want women on this blog to have the freedom to come and go, and not feel faithless when God calls them away for a season or for longer. If they return, it’s like an old friend popping up — we take up where we left off with joy! This blog is a blessing to me in that I do take seriously the call to mentor, and I find women with tender and hungry hearts come here and are mentored not just by me, but by others, and grow to become mentors themselves.)
We can’t be devoted to everyone we have cared about at all times.
Even Jesus had circles of friendship
during his three years of ministry on earth.
I have found it helpful to ask the Lord:
“To whom are You calling me to be true?”
I want to be open to anyone who approaches me, as Jesus was,
not seeing people as “interruptions,” but as sovereignly placed.
But the longer you live, you realize you can’t give devoted attention to all you love for the rest of your life, and God doesn’t call us to do so. Most friends are like annual flowers, in our lives for a season, but then fade away and are gone to make room for other annuals.
Having said that, we are called to faithfulness, for a moment, a season, years, or even, for life.
So what does faithfulness in friendship look like?
Again, Proverbs gives wisdom
and His Spirit gives power.
On a personal note, the pre-release books of The Jesus Who Surprises are gone. Thank you so much to those of you who responded — I wish I had more to send out! To those of you writing reviews, you’ll need to say at the end that you received this pre-release book from the publisher in exchange for writing a review. Christianbook.com takes reviews now, but Amazon and B and N makes you wait until the release on July 23rd. I’m hoping many others will purchase a book and write a review. I am so pleased with the videos — God brought so many wonderful people to help!
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. What do you learn for your own life from the above relational chart?
3. Share a time when you felt certain God was leading in friendship? How did you know?
Monday-Tuesday: Seeking Wisdom in Friendship
4. Share a time God gave you wisdom in friendship.
I remember when I first realized that I needed to seek God for wisdom on to whom I should be true. Some of the questions I asked God were:
To whom is my heart knit?
To whom are You calling me to be true?
Has she shown a reciprocal desire to be close to me? (For if not, then it won’t work.)
He gave me the names of five women, and it really did help me to be truer to them. Ten years later I needed to ask again. One had died, one faded from my life (no quarrel, just faded) and three were “long distance friends,” so not demanding a lot of time, though we stayed in touch and our hearts were still close. Life circumstances change — I was a widow, so unless a husband could handle his wife ‘leaving him’ occasionally to be with me, it wouldn’t work. I had three grown daughters to whom I was called to be true. And I had moved, and needed friends right where I was. I remember Jan Silvious telling me: “Friendship is the only close relationship that is truly free.” We are called, in so far as we able and are welcomed by them, to be true to children, siblings, and parents — whether we find them easy or not. But deciding on our closest friendships calls for wisdom.
Most friends are like annual flowers. We brighten one another’s lives for a season and then fade, to make room for new annual flowers. This realization has been freeing to me, especially since I have lived so many years and in so many places. I can love them, and yet not be distraught if they move in and out of my life and I become more of an occasional e-mail or facebook friend.
But now and then God gives you a friend who is in your life season after season — a Ruth or a Jonathan to whom your heart is knit. Til death you will be friends, even if distance separates you, you will be intentional about notes, calls, and even visits. I’ve backed away from my thought of making promises of unfailing love, because of the gravity of that before God, but to endeavor in my heart to be true.
5. What thoughts do you have on the above?
6. Proverbs continually stress seeking wisdom from God. Do so now, asking Him “to whom are you calling me to be true?” You don’t have to share names here — but you might share if this was helpful — or not!
Wednesday: A Friend Loves At All Times
7. Think about a time when a friend loved you and it was costly to her. How did that impact you?
8. Read Proverbs 17:17
A. What point is being made by “a friend loves at all times.”
B. Strong’s implies that the “brother” here is a sibling of the same parents. How does that affect your interpretation of this phrase?
9. When are some times when it is costly to love?
10. How can melting your heart with the gospel help you be this kind of friend?
Thursday: Faithful Are The Wounds of A Friend
It is hard for any of us to receive criticism, despite the multitude of proverbs that tell us a wise man is swift to receive rebuke. But when it comes from someone whom you know loves you, it is easier, because you are certain their wounds come from wanting your best. I recently, unwisely, asked advice in a small group in the presence of one whom I know tends toward legalism. She told me what to do, for she saw the issue as black and white, whereas I saw it as gray. I sensed she was offended when I demurred. As I pondered this later with my dear friend Twila, she said, gently, “You opened yourself up to that.” So true. I will be wiser next time. I am truly thankful for wounds from a friend, even though they may initially smart, they help me become more of the woman God is calling me to be.
11. Share a recent God hunt or a memory of a time you grew from the wounds of a faithful friend.
12. Read Proverbs 27:6
A. What does the first part of the verse say, and what do you think it means?
B. How well do you receive wounds from a friend?
C. What contrast is made with the second phrase? What should this teach us?
Friday: A Faithful Friend, Who Can Find?
13. How has the Lord been faithful to you recently?
14. Read Proverbs 20:6 and, looking at the contrast, what observation is being made?
15. Why shouldn’t we be surprised when our closest friends let us down?
16. How do you think the Lord would have you respond when a good friend lets you down?
17. How should you respond when you let a friend down?
18. What’s your take-a-way and why?