August 25, 2004
Encouragement for Today

Friendship-God's Unique Design
Sharon Jaynes, Vice President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, author and conference speaker

Key Verse

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 19:24 (NIV)

Devotional:

I believe that God, our Father, understands a woman's desire to have close friends. He made us that way. He created us to be in relationship.

In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel delivered some pretty incredible news to young Mary.  While still a virgin, she was going to conceive a child by the Holy Spirit and give birth to the Savior of the world.  Before Mary could catch her breath, the angel continued by telling her, "Oh, by the way, your supposedly barren cousin, Elizabeth, is also pregnant with child in her old age" (Jaynes version). He knew the young girl was going to need the encouragement of a friend who would understand, so before she could even ask, He sent her to Elizabeth.

So Mary, probably around sixteen years old, traveled one hundred miles from Galilee to Judea to spend three months with her friend.  When Mary walked into Elizabeth's home, the older woman gave her a blessing. "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!  But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" (1:42-45).

Can you imagine the turmoil Mary felt as she traveled to Judea? "No one is ever going to believe me. Joseph is going to put me away. And what will my parents think?"  Can you imagine how those words of encouragement were a balm to the young girl?  God divinely revealed His plan to Elizabeth and she in turn affirmed Mary before she even revealed her news.  What a precious Lord we serve!

Mary was so encouraged, she broke out into song. She stayed with Elizabeth for about three months, no doubt helped with the labor and delivery of John and then returned home.

Jesus Himself had best friends.  Think of concentric circles with graduated smaller ones inside the larger like an archery target.  His first and largest realm of influence was to the multitudes. Next, He gave special attention to 72 men whom He sent out ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.   Smaller still, Jesus gathered 12 men to be His good friends whom He closely discipled, but then He chose an even smaller group of 3 to be His best friends - Peter, James and John.  These three men were privy to Jesus' transfiguration (Mark 9:2), his deep sorrow in the garden (Mark 14:32), and the first resurrection from an empty tomb (John 20:3).  But then there was a "place of deeper still" - the bull's-eye of friendship, if you will, that Jesus shared with no man.  It was a place reserved for God alone.    

Before His arrest, Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him to Gethsemane to pray.  However, He left the three and went a "little farther" to be alone with His Father. It was a place where no man could join Him, no man could calm Him, and no man could reassure Him.  He had to go alone. I honestly believe that is a place we rarely go, but a place where Jesus longs for us to join Him.              

Dee Brestin, in her book, The Friendships of Women, describes our relationships "like gently moving streams joining into one river, we round the difficult bends of life together, strengthening each other with a fresh water supply.  We are free and flowing and unconcerned with boundaries....We are afraid to run toward the ocean alone.  We feel a sense of panic in solitude." What a beautiful picture of the refreshing, refueling, and renewing power of friendship.  However, our friends were never intended to meet our greatest need to be in relationship.  No woman - or man can fill all our emotional needs and if we look to one friend for everything or even a few, we'll be doomed to disappointment. That is an empty place only Jesus can fill.

I have found that when I feel empty inside and try to grasp desperately at friends to fill the void, I come up emptier than before.  At those low points, friendships seem to elude me. The more frantically I grasp, the more elusive true friendships appear.  However, if I go to Jesus Christ, allow Him to fill me with His love, I move from needy to full, and from being a taker to a giver.  Then I find friendships are plentiful.

When God calls us to come "a little father" away to be completely alone with Him in the garden of our souls, but we go to the three instead, we will be sorely disappointed.  People are a poor substitute for God.

However, I do believe that there are times when God gives us the wonderful gift of friendship with another.  When we find such a friend, we have found a treasure indeed.


My prayer for today

Dear Lord, I thank you that you have created women to be in relationship with other women.  I pray that you will send me that special friend with whom I can share my deepest longings, dreams, desires, and struggles.  I pray that she and I will help each other grow closer to You each time we are together.  I thank you for the friends that I do have and pray that you will teach me how to be an encouragement to them.  Most of all, Lord, I thank You that You call me Your friend.  Forgive me when I go to others, when I need to go to You.

In Jesus' Name, Amen.


Application Steps:

Write a letter to a woman who has been a mentor to you, thanking her for her friendship and example.  Tell her specific ways she has been a mentor to you.


Make a list of younger women, or perhaps younger women in the faith, to whom you can be a friend and mentor.

If you do not have a close Christian friend, ask God to send you one, and then pay attention to those who cross your path.

If you do not have a close Christian friend, make a list of ways that you can initiate and cultivate such friendships.


Reflection Points:

How do you think Mary and Elizabeth spent their time together?

What common ties did they have during their lifetime?

Why do you think God sent Mary to Elizabeth, rather than some other relative?

What are some ways that Jesus can be your best friend?


Power Verses:

 "My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend" (Job 16:20-21 NIV)

"You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other" (John 15:14-17 NIV)

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity" (Galatians 3 13-14 NIV).

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV)


Additional Resources:

A Woman's Secret to a Balanced Life by Sharon Jaynes
http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/secretbalanced.html

Dreams of a Woman - God's Desire for Fulfilling Your Dreams by Sharon Jaynes
http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/dreamswoman.html