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Friendship and love when it’s hard

By Tonya S. Swindell

Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated with the topic of friendship. Beautiful depictions of loving relationships make me want it even more. But my pride and self-centeredness often challenge my willingness to walk in love, the way Jesus intended.

Friendship evokes images of people smiling and standing with arms draping the shoulders of friends nearby, who are singing: “Lean on me when you’re not strong. And I’ll be your friend. I’ll help you carry on. For it won’t be long ‘til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.”

True friends allow us to exhale and share our feelings when we’ve been inhaling emotions like anxiety, depression and anger for so long that we’re turning blue, sad, depressed because of our current situations.

Whitney Houston described what it’s like to exhale in the company of friends: “Sometimes you’ll laugh. Sometimes you’ll cry. Life never tells us the when’s or why’s. When you’ve got friends to wish you well, you’ll find a point when you will exhale.”

I believe God wants me to exhale. As I do, He teaches me to give and receive love. First Corinthians, chapter 13 describes love as patient, kind, not jealous, conceited or proud. It is not ill mannered, selfish or irritable. Love does not keep a record of wrongs or feel happy because of wrongdoing. It rejoices in response to truth. Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, and never gives up.

While explaining how we can extend the power of Love to others, Jesus encouraged His followers, saying: “My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. And you are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 13:34-35)

Friendship was highly valued in biblical times. According to Pastor Rick Warren, “Moses and Abraham were called ‘friends of God’, David was called ‘a man after [God’s] own heart,’ and Job, Enoch, and Noah had intimate friendships with God.” David and Jonathan were also described as having a solid friendship.

A true friend loves, even when he or she dislikes another person’s behavior. So walking in love definitely has a degree of difficulty.

Thankfully Holy Spirit-inspired words from the May 12 entry of Sarah Young’s book “Jesus Calling” encouraged me to lean on God’s Love: “Learn to relate to others through My love, rather than yours. Your human love is ever so limited, full of flaws and manipulation. My loving Presence, which always enfolds you, is available to bless others, as well as you. Instead of trying harder to help people through your own paltry supplies, become aware of My unlimited supply, which is accessible to you continually. Let My Love envelop your outreach to other people….”

True friendship can be summed up in one verse, Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.”

Tonya Swindell writes a blog for www.inspirenewlife.org and is a teacher for Kingdom Building Equipping School (KBES.com). She can be reached at 1brightot@gmail.com.