Next month will mark 3 years since my life went in a very unexpected direction. 3 years. I can still hardly believe it has been that long…or that I am now where I am. Honestly, there were many times, especially in the first year or so, that I was such a wreck from all that had happened to me that I didn’t see how I could make it…much less get to a place where I began to heal and grow, have dreams for a better future, and even believe God is beginning to lead me into a future.
It was definitely a season of loss and brokenness that God allowed me to go through; having my marriage taken away because my wife (now ex) didn’t want to be that anymore, not getting to see my kids everyday like I love to do but rather only on weekends and holidays and days with special activities, losing a job that I enjoyed as well as the financial security it provided, and honestly feeling like I lost my identity as a man and person.
Looking back, and thinking over the past 3 years, it has truly been a journey that I didn’t think I’d take, but also a journey that has taught me more than I ever realized I needed to learn! And to be totally honest, I can say that I’m thankful for all God has taught me on this journey…those lessons I would never want to give back. I may not be happy about how I had to learn them, but I’m definitely thankful I did.
One such lesson has been about friendships. Before everything happened, I had many friends. I almost felt popular in a way because of how many friends I had. But, I am not sure I truly understood what a real friend looked like.
Sometimes, unfortunately, you have to see the other side so that you are provided a contrast with which you can compare and see clearly the difference between what is real and honest and true, and what sadly is not.
The book of Proverbs has much to say about friendship…
A friend loves at all times… (Proverbs 17:17)
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)
Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend… Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts. All a poor man’s brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but does not have them. (Proverbs 19:4, 6-7)
When we have a lot to offer, we will have a lot of “friends”. However, when we lose what we have to offer…when what we had that attracted people to us is taken away, and what’s left is simply who we are, we begin to find out who our true friends really are.
A couple of months ago I was in Haiti visiting an orphanage that I love to visit. During my time there I was having a conversation with the pastor of the orphanage, who I have a good relationship with. As we talked, we began sharing with each other about the difficult experiences in our lives. At one point in this conversation he says to me “one thing is for sure, when you go through really hard trials, you find out who your true friends really are.” #TRUTH
Here are the lessons I’ve learned about friendship over the past few years…
- A true friend reaches out to you, just to see how you are doing. They don’t wait for you to reach out to them, and they don’t reach out only because they need something from you. A true friend cares about you, and wants to know how you are. Even if you don’t live near them…they don’t let distance keep them from reaching out to you.
- A true friend is willing to make sacrifices for you. When you need something, they are willing to help and do what they can. They make time for you in their busy day…even if just to say hi and check in. They help out when you are in need, they make it a point to carve out time to see you and catch up.
- A true friend encourages and supports you. No one is perfect, but a true friend always looks for and sees the good in you, and points it out to you. They don’t beat you up when you make a mistake or go through a hard time, rather they encourage you and support you through it all…even if they don’t always agree with you, they still encourage and support you.
- A true friend is open and honest with you, and lets you be open and honest with them. Oh how it does our heart and soul so much good to be able to share what is really weighing us down…to share without worry of rejection or judgment the things that we struggle with, think through, and wonder about. Someone who trusts you enough to share those things with you, and is trustworthy enough that you can do the same back to them…that is a true friend!
- A true friend loves you for you. They love who you are, not what you do or what you have or what you can provide them. They love you and stick close to you, because they truly care about you as a person.
Over the past 3 years, I have seen who my real friends truly are, and who in fact were not even though I thought they were. It’s a hard lesson to learn…but an invaluable one! It’s nice and fun to know a bunch of people and feel popular. But it’s INCREDIBLE to know who your true friends are…to know who truly loves you for you and is there for you no matter what life brings your way.
To all of you who have been my true friends, I cannot say thank you enough! The contrast you have provided me is one I’m grateful for, and it makes me thank God for the blessing you have been to me. I pray that I too can be a true friend to you as well!
May we all seek to be a true friends to people in our lives, and may we also have eyes to see who our true friends really are. May we never stop thanking God for our true friends, because a true friend is a blessing from God himself!
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above… (James 1:17)