Summary: We have a fundamental need and desire to be in relationship to other people. God knew that and so God gives us the gift of companionship and help from each other. You and I were created for relationship with each other.
The Ministry and Meaning of Friendship
David W. Smith writes Chuck had been perhaps the most hard-working salesman in his company’s history. He usually spent 65 to 75 hours a week at the office when he wasn’t traveling. And when he was on the road ninety hours. Of course, no one complained about his schedule. If anything, others were jealous of his success. He generated incredible revenues, beating all other sales representatives hands down year after year. And his lifestyle showed off his success. His suits were top of the line, he bought a new car every two years, and his house was worth a million dollars. He was even married to one of the most beautiful women in town, and he had two children, both of whom were doing well in school. Of course, he made sure that his family had every material desire they wanted. What more did he (or they) need?
Friends. Males friends. He spent so much time working and winning in the marketplace that he had no time to spend developing friendships with other men. Certainly he knew many people at work, and he came in contact daily with clients who relied on him and his expertise. But no one knew Chuck. Nothing really mattered to Chuck but the next sale. This was all he lived for. Then Chuck retired. He walked out of the office after receiving one of the grandest retirement parties his company had ever thrown. He had worked hard for more than 40 years. Now he looked forward to enjoying all the wealth and prestige he had acquired over the years. But frustrated and hurt from years of neglect, his lovely wife left him. And his children, who had since left home to begin their own lives, rarely visited him. They really didn’t know him, and he didn’t know them well either. He had never had the time to spend with them while they were growing up. Now they didn’t have the time or inclination to spend with him. The few times they managed to get together, conversation waned after only an hour, so visits were largely conducted on the telephone – about once every two or three months, and then calls lasted only about fifteen minutes.
Lonely, Chuck tried to keep up a few relationships he had had with some of his former coworkers. They would get together to talk shop, but soon they had little time for him since they were busy meeting the demands of their jobs, just as he had done during his working years. And then David W. Smith writes, “Within a year after his retirement, Chuck became a stranger – or was he in some sense always a stranger? – at the company for which he had spent his life diligently working. Feeling unwanted and unneeded, he stopped coming around. Calls from his kids also grew more infrequent. Chuck was alone and friendless.” Chuck’s story confirms a recent study which found that the majority of men do not have a close relationships or friends with whom they can share their struggles. A recent Gallop survey has found that Americans today are lonelier than ever. We are spending more time alone and yet desiring to be able to connect on a meaningful level with other people.
One of the things that Scripture teaches us is that this is not the way God meant it to be. God thinks friendship is very important. In fact God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” That statement tells us that we have a fundamental need and desire to be in relationship to other people. God knew that and so God gives us the gift of companionship and help from each other. You and I were created for relationship with each other. Bill Withers captured this in his song, “We all need somebody to lean on.” Stand By Me. And somebody needs us. We are in need of friendship and others are in need of our friendship.
What is friendship. Many of us are satisfied with acquaintances as close friends. Close friends are the people we hang out with or occasionally socialize with. For some friendship is people I hang out with after work. For others, it’s people I play golf, fish or hunt with. Ralph Waldo Emerson said A friend is someone with whom I may be sincere and before whom I may think aloud. Oscar Wilde found that it’s easier to find people who will sympathize with you during the difficult times but harder to find people who will celebrate with you during the good times. It requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s success. We need those types of friends as well. Mark Twain said, Grief can take care of itself but to get the full value of joy you must have somebody to share it with. Henry Ford captured it when he said, My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.