By Brian Jennings
How do I find friends?
This month’s question was asked by a fifth grader. She’s moved to a new neighborhood and new school this year. She wants to know how she’ll make new friends. This same question is on the minds of many adults too. And tragically, some adults have forgotten they even need friends. They are trying to navigate the world like a solo pilot.
Statistics indicate most people are fortunate to experience one deep friendship in their lifetime. Keith Manry observed in a sermon, “Of all the things that cause me to stop and wonder, one of the questions I have not been able to answer is why so many people are looking for meaningful friendships and yet so few actually find them.”
If you aren’t investing deeply in friendships, a host of issues are at play:
1. You are missing out on one of the most beautiful gifts God has given. God created you for friendship.
2. Other people remain lonely because of your isolation. Someone needs a friend like you.
3. Communities weaken without relationships. Social ills rise, prejudices develop, and unmet needs expand. Friendships provide the framework for healthy, helpful communities.
4. The kingdom of God isn’t served like it could be. The number one way people choose to follow Jesus (2,000 years ago and still today) is by a friend or family member inviting them.
So what is the secret of finding great friends? We could list the prerequisite qualities of a friend (humble, joyful, loving, kind, and so on), but let’s look at an Old Testament story that reveals a subtle, yet essential, secret to finding great friends.
Israel’s King Saul began well, but he soon became prideful and paranoid. He disobeyed God to such a point that God chose David to be the next king of Israel. David’s journey led him through palaces and caves, joys and sorrows, victories and defeats. Saul’s jealousy, which led him to attempt murder, taught David to be wary of the people around him. Remarkably, David found one person he could trust, Saul’s own son. First Samuel 18 says that Jonathan and David became one in spirit. Jonathan relinquished all claims to the throne. This type of humility is almost unheard of. David could’ve easily treated Jonathan with suspicion. Instead, he gave his friend trust and respect. David and Jonathan remained best of friends, even through extreme trials, until Jonathan’s death.
Many people spend their time searching for the perfect friend, or judging how good (or not so good) their friends are. This never leads to great friendships, because the motivation is selfish. Plus, the perfect human friend doesn’t exist.
Here’s the secret to friendship. If you want to experience great friendships, quit trying to find the perfect friend; just be a great friend. Get your mind off of yourself. Don’t count the number of people you really like. Count the number of people you treated with kindness today. The Bible teaches us to seek to serve rather than be served (Mark 10:45) and to “value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Jesus declared the second greatest commandment to be “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
Still, use discernment. “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). There is a time to exercise wisdom when choosing your closest friends. There’s also a time to help your children choose their friends wisely. However, make sure you first focus on being a great friend to others. This is just one of the many upside down kingdom principles. We must continually fight against our impulses to place ourselves above others. As we honor the Lord, we serve others. And time and time again, God’s commands prove beautiful to those who obey them.
We have an amazing God. He’s given us friendships. Abraham was called “God’s friend” (James 2:23). The God of the universe is your friend! Praise God for his perfect friendship, and praise him for the friendships he places in our lives.
Do you want to help the children in your life become better friends? Brian wrote a 5-day devotional to help people become the friends God designed them to be. Download the free resource.
Brian and his wife, Beth, and their four children live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he preaches at Highland Park Christian Church and writes (brianjenningsblog.com).