“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24, NIV).
“Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life,” C.H. Spurgeon wrote. “Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend." This is the kind of friend I wish to be–one who knows I can't solve a problem or fix an issue, but who realizes that in listening to my friend's heart, I have given the very best I can give. I want to be a faithful sounding board, an encourager, and someone my friend can lean on. I want to help my friend experience hope without burdening him with my human expectation.
Have you ever tried to help a friend, and ended up unintentionally hurting him? Was it something you were certain would bring relief, but all it did was bring more pain? Sometimes in an attempt to lessen a friend's pain and ease a breaking heart, we attempt to fix something that we don't really understand. Only the Holy Spirit does. Sometimes the Holy Spirit does guide and give direction to encourage our friend, but it is always His place to do the work. We can't fix anything. Only He can. Look at Job's friends. Job didn't ask for their advice, but they gave it anyway. They believed that they were helping Job with their insight. All they did was hurt him with their judgments and accusations. They really didn't understand the larger picture, and neither do we.
If a friend shares his heart, he has trusted you enough to make himself vulnerable to what you think of him. If your friend comes to you seeking advice, pray for God's wisdom and always extend the grace of honesty without judging him. Love you friend, and realize that you don't have all the answers, but carefully listen. If the Holy Spirit gives you insight, only offer that insight. You may make a suggestion, but also make it clear that you love him no matter what–that you do not have all the answers. We can't demand anything of anyone, but we can love completely with Christ's love that sees potential without passing judgment. There is no greater love than when we give ourselves for our friends. We must lay down all our human judgment or preconception or expectation. We must release all this so then we are free to love. When we love with His love, all things are possible.
Lately I have been praying about living intentionally for Christ. That means that my life is a risk. I become vulnerable in places and friendships where I might not have been vulnerable before. I can't hide or retreat. In my intentional love for my friends, I must live a surrendered life that places another person's need before my own. The best I can do for my friend is pray and ask the Holy Spirit to make me sensitive to their needs, to help me see and encourage potential without passing expectation, to make me a good listener that hears what my friend is really saying, and to share the love of Christ that brings healing. If God wishes to use me, I will make myself available. But I will never assume it is my place to do anything but surrender to Him. If my friend comes to me asking for advice, I will pray for God's guidance and His heart. I pray that in our mutual surrender, we will know His peace and joy and have a greater sensitivity to Him and to each other.
Am I a friend who sticks closer than a brother? Only I can live the right answer.