“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Adversity is a crucible that tests us and refines us. The message of this proverb is that adversity also tests and refines our relationships. The time of need is the test of friendship.
Proverbs 18:24 also speaks to this, and it makes the distinction between real friends and mere companions: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” It’s one thing to have companions and buddies, it’s another thing to have true friends. A real friend is someone who loves and serves and supports during the toughest circumstances of life.
What is most attention-getting about Proverbs 18.24 is that you can have many companions but nevertheless “come to ruin.” That is because a companion is not the same as a true friend. Solomon tells what us makes a true friend different from a mere companion: a true friend “sticks closer than a brother.” When disaster strikes, a “companion” is likely to abandon you. Not so a friend.
Deep friendships don’t just happen. They are built over time, and they are the result of hard work. Most importantly, they are built in the midst of challenging and difficult situations. You don’t really know the strength of a relationship until it has been tested in the crucible of adversity.
We are in serious need of relational commitment and discipline in our society. This is true in organizations, families, and in the Christian community. In order to successfully navigate the challenges we face in the years ahead, we must operate from a foundation of deep commitment, effective communication, and uncommon collaboration.
A great example of the deep level of relational commitment and discipline described here is the Navy SEALs, an elite group of professionals recognized around the world as among the very best at working as a team to accomplish their purpose. How do they consistently accomplish this uncommon level of trust and teamwork?
- They adhere to a set of team core values that are non-negotiable, and they are relentless about holding each other accountable to those values. On SEAL teams the greatest accountability comes from each other, not from the chain of command.
- SEALs build an uncommon level of trust with each other. Their process of building trust is intentional. Trust is earned over time as guys demonstrate they can be counted on in difficult -- often extreme -- conditions.
- They train and suffer as a team. The severity of their training eliminates the mentally weak and the self-centered. You do not make it through SEAL training without the support and encouragement of the teammates around you. It is in the crucible of adversity that their bond … their uncommon commitment to each other … is built.
- They spend time together. They know each other exceptionally well and learn to care about and love each other like family.
- They understand and respect each other's personalities and capabilities, and they rely on each other's expertise.
The very heart of the SEAL culture is built on the principle that the time of need is the test of friendship. Imagine if the Christian community built this kind of relational commitment and discipline into their lives, and then displayed it before the watching world! What would happen?
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.” (John 15.13)