The return of the iPod Devotionals starts with a song by James Taylor. The shuffle landed on a classic by Sweet Baby James called “You’ve Got a Friend.” It is an appropriate place to restart the iPod Devotionals because friends have been on my heart and mind more than usual this week. Life is hard. Good friends are a big part of making it to the finish line successfully. Taylor’s lyrics resonated with me after returning from seeing friends in California.
Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend.
You’ve got a friend.
Ain’t it? Real friends are a treasure. I hope I don’t insult your intelligence if I remind you it was 17th century French classical author François La Rochefoucauld that wrote, “A true friend is the most precious of all possessions and the one we take the least thought about acquiring.”
That is too often true. Joni and I have many good friends and that is a blessing. But you will have just a handful of real friends. Friends that you can tell anything or say anything and not be rejected. We have just a handful of friends in that category. Relationships like that take time. It takes investment. And I think you have to go through a variety of experiences together to really go to the next level of friendship. You don’t really know a person until you go through adversity with them. That is not something you can plan or force.
This past weekend Joni and I were incredibly blessed to spend the weekend with friends like that. We go back a long way with Ed and Judy Underwood. Ed is now a pastor at Church of the Open Door in Glendora, California. If you live in that area and don’t have a church home please check them out. It has been over twenty years since the Underwoods left Texas to pursue God’s calling. Kids, craziness and life in general caused us to lose consistent contact for a time. When we reconnected it was like hitting the play button on a paused movie. We just picked right up with the rhythm of our friendship. Regular readers of the humble ramblings might have a glimmer of recognition hearing those names. I wrote about my friend Ed in an earlier blog as he battled a setback related to his lymphoma cancer. God mercifully spared my friend to live and serve. He is doing both well.
Henri Nouwen captures the heart of friendship that goes beyond backslappin’, watching football and telling bad jokes.
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
I love the New Testament story of the man who was paralyzed and his friends were trying to get him in front of Jesus. They cared. When they couldn’t get in the door they cut a hole in the roof and lowered him down to Jesus. The Lord was moved by the man’s faith (and the faith of his friends) and He had mercy on him. What strikes me is how Jesus addressed the man.
He said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you." (Luke 5, NASB)
Jesus still calls men friend when they simply humble themselves in faith. I used to sing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” in my little hometown church. Jesus is indeed a friend that will never desert me. Jesus also knew that we needed earthly friends to help navigate this often difficult journey. James Taylor summarizes the importance of those friends.
Hey, ain’t it good to know that you've got a friend?
People can be so cold.
They'll hurt you and desert you.
Well they'll take your soul if you let them.
Oh yeah, but don’t you let them.
Satan would like nothing more than to use the hurts and difficult people in life to take our very soul. Don’t you let them. Lean on Jesus. Pray for friends. Most importantly, be a friend. You will likely be disappointed and even hurt along the way. But finding that small number of real friends is worth it. All friends are a blessing. Real friends are a treasure. I will wrap this up with a quote from one of my sentimental favorites, the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”.
Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.
This weekend Joni and I felt like we were very successful indeed. And blessed beyond measure.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.