Once upon a time, I got a new job and looked forward to it, but I was diagnosed with a terrible illness two weeks before I started. Resumption day was also my induction day at the hospital for treatments. To put it mildly, it was a day of disarray. I prayed, nothing went according to plan, but I was happy to have friends walking with me the entire day.
I had to be at the hospital for most of the day so I only got to speak with my manager at 6 p.m., when I returned to the office. He said to me: “You shouldn’t have been worried.” (Speaking about me being worried, because I left work midday on my first day.) His face was a combination of relief, sadness, seriousness, and understanding. He went on. “You will know your true friends, the good and the bad.” He is Italian, so I imagine this is what he would have been telling me:
Lo sfortunato conoscono i loro veri amici
In English, “The unfortunate know their true friends.” I went home thankful to God for saving the day and for a manager with compassion — his words on my mind.
True friends, who can find them?
My teen/early 20s dream was to find my one true friend. I had glimpses of that, but they all disappointed me, or me, them. It was frustrating and I began to seriously pray for friends. It wasn’t till a few years ago that I began to listen to what the Lord said about it. Jesus tells a parable in the book of Luke where a traveler is robbed and left for dead on the roadside, in response to the question by a religious expert: “Who is my neighbour?” We might ask the question “Who is my true friend?”
The Lord is our number one true friend
When we read the parable we often read ourselves into the role of the Samaritan, when we are more like the Pharisees and scribe. But given Jesus’s mission, we are the one left for dead and Jesus has been a neighbour to us, the truest friend we could ever wish to have.
“‘Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise’.” (Luke 10:36–37, ESV)
Imagine we owed £100 million. What God has done is that He has forgiven the debt of that sum and then credited our account with £100 Billion, much more than we’d ever ask or imagine.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:13–15, ESV)
Do likewise, be a true friend
“…You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37, ESV)
We can only do likewise if we have been transformed by what Jesus has done for us. In our relationship with Jesus, not only are we loved unconditionally, we are taught to love properly! This is good news. We go from a desire to take, to a desire to give. We are no longer asking who our true friends are, but we are seeking how to be true friends to others. Even better, the Holy Spirit empowers us, so we won’t be walking in our strength. Loving others becomes a delight, not a burden.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12, ESV)
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you so that you will love one another.” (John 15:16–17, ESV)
I’ve been through the thick of that illness and while sadly I saw friends fall away, God answered my prayers and raised others to be a friend to me. Such mercy! I’m glad to report that Jesus was true to me in every circumstance even the valley of the shadow of death, and continues to be.
Grace & Peace