“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
The boom in social media has connected the world in ways no one could have imagined a generation ago. Now we have the ability, at the touch of a screen, to connect with anyone at any time. Yet, with all the modern conveniences, there are pitfalls.
Social media helps us connect, but we must be careful. As technology and digital connectivity continue to advance, we are in danger of expecting more from technology and less from each other. Social media can give us the illusion of companionship, but without the demands of true friendship. As one commentator has observed regarding digital connections, “People want to be with each other, but also elsewhere. People want to control exactly the amount of attention they give others, not too much, not too little.”
It is helpful to distinguish a primary connection from a secondary connection. A text, tweet, email, or IG post is a secondary connection. A face-to-face conversation is a primary connection. In the digital age, we are becoming increasingly skilled at secondary connections, and increasingly less skilled at primary connections.
We too often text each other when what we need to do is talk with each other. We have many online connections when what we really need are more face-to-face conversations. We tweet and retweet, follow and unfollow, friend and unfriend … but are we doing the hard work of building real relationships?
I am afraid we are in danger of sacrificing the personal for the technical.
Human relationships are incredibly rich, but they’re also messy and demanding, and we try to “clean them up” with technology. That’s a mistake. The discomfort that is a necessary part of true friendship is a blessing. The comfort that comes with pseudo-connections is deceiving and dangerous. Solomon said it this way in Proverbs 27.6: “Better the wounds of a friend than the kiss of an enemy.”
Everyone wants great relationships, but not everyone gets them. Why is that? Because you don’t get the relationships you want; you get the relationships you build. How people respond to you is largely driven by how you respond to them. If you want to improve any relationship in your life, the place to begin is with yourself.
When it comes to relationships, we often want more than we are willing to work for. Sometimes our desire for quality relationships is greater than our willingness to engage in the hard work necessary to build them. When this happens, our relationships fall short of their potential. Or worse, they become difficult and painful.
When it comes to relationships, be careful of wishing for more than you are willing to work for. The grass is always greener where you water it.
Adversity reveals your true friends. When you are going through tough times, your true friends support, encourage, and strengthen you. They help you carry the burden. They are there for you. A real friend stays with you through the storm and sticks with you through the fire. They are with you on the mountain top, and they are with you in the valley.
The time of need is the test of friendship. Some who claim to be friends are not. Real friendship has a price that many are not willing to pay. It’s easy to be supportive during the easy times; it’s not easy to be supportive during the hard times.
A true friend sharpens. He will make you a sharper person, a better person. Proverbs 27:17 says, "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." A true friendship will put an edge on your life. False friends dull your life, blunt your influence, and drag you down. Anybody who makes it easier for you to do wrong is not a true friend. One of the true tests of any friendship is asking yourself, "Am I a better person for having known this person?"
A true friend sticks. A true friend is steadfast. We read in Proverbs 17:17: "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." If you want to see who your real friends are, just make a mistake and see whether or not they leave you.
Life is like a ship. Some people get on and off board very easily. Some will stay on board as long as everything is sailing smoothly; but let the rough weather come, and they will abandon the ship. A true friend is the one who will stick with you.
A true friend stabs. You say, "I don't want to be stabbed." Well, listen to Proverbs 27:6: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." A friend who really loves you will wound you if it's necessary. That is, he will tell you the truth and won't give you hypocritical kisses when he needs to do a little spiritual surgery on you. Flattery is not true friendship. A true friend cares enough to confront. I'm so grateful that throughout my life I've had those who would put their arms around my shoulders and help me when I’ve done wrong.
True friendship is costly. It's not easy to maintain a friendship. Remember John 15:13: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." And Proverbs 17:17 says, "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." You must be willing to pay the price. But finding a true friend and being one in return is one of the best investments you can ever make.
Proverbs 18:24, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” and a different picture of friendship begins to emerge. This friend is someone who is there through thick and thin. More than a fishing buddy, he or she is someone who loves and serves and supports during the toughest circumstances of life.
Better yet, this biblical friendship implies self-sacrificial love. Contrary to the cultural impulse to discard a friend when it gets hard or messy, this relationship will cost something. It will cost time, energy, comfort, even our very selves. Jesus himself said, “Greater love has no man than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Indeed, this type of friendship language in the Bible is reserved for contexts of deep, self-sacrificial, loving commitment.
Our last couple go-to verses have been related to friendship, and what makes a good friend. We talked about “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) Today we are going to use another verse on friendship from Proverbs, “A friend loves at all times.”
A true friend is a friend who is always there for you. We’ve all experienced high school drama, either in our own lives and/or the lives of our children. High school drama is an example of how not to be a friend. I remember back in high school, people would try to make plans, and invite people out, only to be “stood up” at the last minute when they got a better offer. This isn’t an example of good friendship, but of a relationship of convenience, i.e. I’ll hang out with you if you are the best of the options. People who carry this kind of drama into adult life find that they don’t have many meaningful friendships.
A true friend loves at all times—at times when it is convenient and at times when it isn’t. A true friend is the one who is going to drop whatever they are doing and come to your assistance if you are in trouble, one who is going to take your phone call when you need someone to talk to, one who is going to offer encouragement when you need encouragement, and who will challenge you when you need to be challenged. A true friend is going to work hard to discern exactly what will help you the most.
A true friend loves even when they are mad at a friend. When I think of some of my best friends, one of the things I love most about them is our ability to disagree and still remain friends. I love that when one of us makes a mistake and says or does something wrong, forgiveness is easily given. This is what it means to love at all times. Good friends don’t necessarily need to talk every day, but my best friends are people who I connect with every day in prayer—I pray for them, they pray for me. We are loving one another in a Godly way at all times, whether we actually speak to each other on a given day or not.
A true friend is someone who doesn’t judge, someone who you can feel comfortable confiding in because they won’t share your secret or look down on you for being less than your best. In order for love to exist between two friends, there has to be an ability for both to be vulnerable. To love at all times means there is comfort sharing a fun day like a trip to the beach and there is also comfort sharing a failure or shedding some tears.
As for the last part of this verse, “a brother is born for adversity,” well we need our closest friends in our times of adversity. Most of us have lots of cursory or “surface” relationships. There are lots of people who I know who are acquaintances, and even friends. But the friends I identify as my closest friends, these are the people who I would call first in a time of adversity. Because our friendships are not just made for fun (though they are fun), they are made to help me get through the tough times. This is the greatest benefit of good friends. To be there for one another not only in the best times, but especially in the hardest times.