Who is a friend in need? There are few things as satisfying in life as a good friendship. Children crave friendships intensely, and we continue to cherish our friendships through life’s waning years. The “texting” shorthand “BFF”—“Best Friend Forever”—speaks to a heartfelt desire that is almost universally felt. Who would not want a friend with whom we can share our days of happiness and joy, who will also be there for us when things are not going so well?
The Bible's Book of Proverbs offers many poignant thoughts on friendship. Many are familiar with this famous verse: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly. But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). But how many realize that this is a mistranslation of the original Hebrew text? A better translation reveals another key principle: “He that maketh many friends doeth it to his own destruction; but there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (American Standard Version). Are our friendships “a mile wide and an inch deep”? Do we have so many superficial “friends” that we lose sight of true friendship? True friendship binds people together in good times and bad. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). And consider: “Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel” (Proverbs 27:9).
Throughout these verses and others, we see a common theme: friendship is a precious possession, treasured most dearly in times of need.
Our friendships often develop as a result of factors beyond our control. We did not choose our siblings (even in case of adoption, the choice was usually our parents’ to make), yet the bonds we form with brothers and sisters are often uniquely strong and valued.
We might not necessarily “make friends” with the people we meet at our workplaces, yet because we spend so much time together with co-workers, bonds of friendship often develop very naturally. The same holds true for people called by God into His Church. For those of us blessed to be so, we did not specifically seek out the “brothers and sisters" we find around us, but because God has placed us close to these people with shared interests, values and goals, we easily develop friendships as we worship and serve God together.
Throughout our lives, we may be surprised if we look back and reflect on how many “friends” have come and gone. Yet, there remain a few people with whom we have made a special effort to deepen the friendship and grow closer. Maybe we were the ones to initiate that effort, or maybe the first outreach came from the new friends. But no matter how they came to become our friends, the ones to whom we are closest are those who remember us in our times of need. The Apostle James describes the biblical patriarch Abraham as a “friend of God” (James 2:23). How did Abraham and God “cement” that friendship? By God’s presence during Abraham’s times of need. God was there when Abraham was a stranger far from home, when he was in danger of losing his wife, when he was moments away from sacrificing his son, Isaac, when he was racing to rescue his nephew from attackers, and when he needed direction in choosing a wife for Isaac later on.
Abraham certainly had a special relationship with God. But we can have a similar relationship if we are willing to call on Him to be with us in our times of adversity—and if we follow the loving counsel He gives us, through Scripture, as our friend.
God made Himself available to Abraham as a friend. But, turn the table for a moment. Is there someone who needs your friendship, right now—someone who would really appreciate a phone call or a note, who needs your encouragement and support? Whose friendship can you “cement” with our love, concern and care? Maybe it is someone right next to you!
To learn more about God’s love for us, and the love He wants us to share with others, read our booklet What Is a True Christian? Maybe it is time for you to be someone’s friend in need.