I recently went to a retreat with women from my church. There were lots of tears shed, chocolate shared, and connections made. We all learned that we need the pieces of each other’s stories to live the fullest life that God desires us to live…. It’s God’s design. I have recently been asking God to teach me what it means to be a good friend. Facebook, Instagram, kids gymnastics, school activities, packed schedules… so many things make it easy for real friendships to become drowned out. BUT, we all long for good friendships, don’t we? …Even if our issues or introversion cause us to push them away.
So how do we do it? How do we build Godly friendships? I found some answers in the story of David and Doug. Ok, it’s actually “Doeg,” but “Doug” is my American translation. …and the story isn’t actually about Doug and David specifically, but their roles reveal something really valuable. So here’s the story (1 Samuel 22) in a nutshell:
Doug is Saul’s chief shepherd. He follows Saul, not out of relationship or honor, but rather out of fear. In fact, his name means “careful” and “anxious.” Doug is the kind of friend that has to be manipulated and enticed in order to show his loyalty. Doug sees the priests gave David the consecrated bread from the temple and he tells Saul. Why does he tattle? Telling our of the wrong motive (aka tattling) is often times about gaining status, power, or favor. (1) Doug is willing to do what it takes to gain attention from Saul. After Saul confronts and condemns the priest of feeding (literally) the “rebellion.” He tells his soldiers to kill the priest and the other men in his family. The soldiers refuse to kill God’s priests. Doug is then told by Saul to do it. He turns around and kills all but one who manages to escape. The fleeing priest who survived the masacre finds David.
David comforts him.
And here is where David teaches me a thing or two about friendship. Listen to what David says:
- “Stay with me. Don’t be afraid.” The priest was probably feeling more alone than ever. David responded with compassion and tenderness. Being a friend means we are making sure we stay open with each other. We don’t ignore or detach from the “hard stuff.” We implore others to not run from the support friendship can provide. Intimacy can be scary, but on the other side of that fear is a treasure that can only come from being open and broken with each other So often we are looking for answers and quick fixes to our circumstances while ignoring the fact that the struggle is where we are often refined and strengthened. I believe this is multiplied when we process through in a community of friends. As we come out of isolation, the emotional connection with friends can lessens the effects of life’s trauma. (2)
- “The man who is trying to kill you wants to kill me too.” David may not have known what it feels like to have your entire family slaughtered, but he could identify with running away, with feeling like your destiny is far from vision, and with feeling like you are one step away from death. David didn’t pretend to know what the priest had just experienced, nor did he try to fix his problem or act like it was no big deal. David showed sincere empathy, and reached him with compassion. This was an eye-to-eye, “I’m in this fight, too” moment. He connected and pulled him higher. I’ve learned that my compassion will be substantially limited if I’m unwilling connect with empathy. Any compassion I show without chosing to connect with their pain, lacks depth and runs the risk of looking like pity.
- “You are safe with me.” A good friend will surround you in your time of need. We usually can’t stop the problems in other’s lives, but we can add perspective, and lighten the load in areas that need it. Genuine friendship will combine this with #1 and 2. Without creating a safe place and emotional connection, surrounding the needs of a friend can still lack intimacy. However, when combined, they are a powerful act of friendship.
What do you think it means to be a good friend? What do you struggle with? Ask the Lord to show you!
If you long to be a better friend, consider praying this with me:
Thank you for being the perfect Friend to me no matter what I am going through or how I respond. Open my eyes to see the Friend you are, and the friend that you desire me to be to those around me. I want to love well. I want to build deep community. Show me how to be who you want me to be. Build my empathy and compassion for my friends so that I can love well. Free me from fear so that I can draw closer to those around me. Help me to be a vessel of unity to the Body of Christ. In Jesus Name. Amen!