It is significant that Jesus, who was familiar with trusting His Father in all things, returned to His friends three times during the hour of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.
A little boy, laying in bed late at night during a raging storm, cried out for his dad. Dad came in and suggested the lad pray to God to comfort him. The boy replied, “But, I need a hug from someone with skin on.”
There are times of adversity and agonies in life for which God alone seems not enough and we crave also for the comfort of our friends.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
There is no substitute for God. And yet, our soul also needs the embrace of a loyal friend. Someone who is faithful and closer than a brother.
Personally, I have been through some trials of late and have been almost overwhelmed by them. But by the Grace of God and a few good friends, who have endured some intimate conversations, have helped me get my thoughts out and into context. Trying to explain your inner turmoil to someone, who is willing to be non-judgmental and ask questions for clarity, is so valuable. It clears the thoughts, brings the emotions out safely and helps provide perspective. Taking all this then to God in the secret place brings change from the inside out and allows me to cope and live life with grace publicly.
But only ever with a friend who is faithful and closer than a brother. After adversity passes, you will know who your friends truly are. These are ones worthy to invest your life into. Right?
What about the times when your friend doesn’t step up to the mark or messes up and hasn’t responded in love? Do we cut them dead and remove them from our Christmas list?!
As we can see from the Scripture above, Jesus’ friends were not there for Him when He really needed them. They slept while He prayed. They fled when the Pharisees came to take Him away to crucify. During His trial, where they could have supported Him, they hid. And then there was Peter (Simon), who a few days earlier swore undying loyalty, denies ever knowing Jesus.
Got ‘friends’ like that? What do you do?
To counteract His friends failure, and knowing they too were being sifted, Jesus assured them:
But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
For Jesus’ disciples, their biggest problem was carrying the burden of their failure; their guilt and condemnation weighed heavily upon them. Yet, immediately after warning them that they would, in fact, each deny Him, Jesus comforted them, “Let not your heart be troubled” (see John 13:38-14:1).
Just as Jesus loved His disciples, even though they failed Him, so we too need to love those who, though falling short of our expectations, still remain with us. We need to remove any sense of condemnation or blame from those who have disappointed us. This gives opportunity for our friends to grow and respond differently in the future.
So whether we have friends who respond well, or disappointingly, now is the time to decide who you will choose to be a friend to – a Proverbs 17:17 friend.
God knows we need more friends. Do you know who your friends will be?