Tag Archives: trust

13. the gift of friendship

girlfriendsFriends

Without them, life would be a miserable, lonely existence based on the mundane tasks of day-to-day living.

Come to think of it, life would be that way without Jesus too.  

I’ve learned a bit in my short life here on earth. I may not have fit in when I was a child (I still don’t and that’s okay), but I am and will be forever grateful for those individuals who said, “You’re weird and I like you. I’m here for you” and proved it by their actions. (By the way, you’re weird too, but that’s okay *insert mischievous grin…)

One truth: God loves relationships.

Relationship, companionship and friendship are the lifelong desire of every single person, from life to death. It is a God-given drive and emotion stemming from Eternity that is in every human heart (Ecclesiastes 3.11).

Friendship is a wonderful gift sent straight from the heart of God. There are several references to friendship in the Bible, from the dawn of creation to the end of time.

I recall God walking through Eden with Adam and Eve each day, building upon their relationship with him and with each other (Genesis 2-3).

I contemplate Enoch, a man who lived 365 years walking in close fellowship with God when one day, he simply vanished (Genesis 5.23-24).

I ponder the moment when God called Abraham friend (James 2.23).

I mull over Moses, who was given the opportunity to watch God walk by (backside only, of course – Exodus 33.11).

I think of the relationship between David and Jonathan: They shared a great love and deep respect for each other (1 Samuel 18-20, 2 Samuel 1).

There are many more. Jesus also calls his followers his friends (John 15.9-14):

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one that this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” – Jesus

Awesome

Inspired

Friendship

Friendship is risky. To be known, truly known, is to risk being hurt, but friendship can be beautiful, and worth the risk.

Friendship is beautiful. God gave it to us and he knew we would need each other to get through this life.

C.S. Lewis wrote about a common thread when it comes to friendships:

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Think about your friends for a moment. What do you have in common with each one? What is each relationship based on?

I’ve got friends at work where the only thing we have in common is our work and a love for cheesy humor on Pinterest.

I’ve got friends at a local coffee shop where the only thing we have in common is our love of coffee.

I had friends in high school where the only things we had in common were a love of movies and board games.

But, when it comes to my Christian friendships… There isn’t anything deeper.

Those friendships take on a special quality:

The bond of Christ.

We are all enhanced by those relationships and they often run much deeper than your typical run-of-the-mill friendships based on coffee and movies (or books, for that matter). 

Through the bond of Christ, you can have a deep, meaningful friendship with someone who has very little or nothing in common with you. That bond is all that matters. He or she is your brother or sister in Christ; they’re family. We risk. We trust. And with that trust, we’re able to have healthy conflict, to build off that and still be okay. What a blessing!

Friendship is one of the ways God takes care of us. We need all the things friendship entails: human contact, encouragement, companionship, love, honesty, loyalty, understanding, and so many more things. Building those friendships is a wonderful way to encourage and lift others up in the Lord.

  • Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4.9-10
  • May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude or mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of your Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15.5-6
  • Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6.2
  • Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, but the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice…As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27.9, 17

As Christ-followers, we’re commanded to carry one another’s burdens, share in each other’s joys and sorrows and be there, to encourage, to speak truth into, to love, etc. The list goes on.

friendship1

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t want in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. – Albert Camus

I’ve always liked that quote, but, when I put it in the light of my friendship with God, it doesn’t make sense.

You see, Jesus is my friend. He is my past and he’s in my past, following me wherever I go, although I’m never truly leading. He is my future; he offers to lead my every step, if only I would let him, rather than venturing off on my own to explore something that captures my attention in the moment. And He is my present, always walking beside me. He’s all around and, what’s more? He’s my friend.

Jesus died to restore our friendship with God. Sin disabled our ability to remain righteous and stand in the presence of the Living God. Prior to Christ’s sacrifice, God’s love and justice would consume us in our weakness. Now, his blood covers mankind and those who choose to follow him have the wonderful ability to live in close fellowship with God.

Notice: It’s a gift of choice; not something to be earned.

Friendships take a lot of time and effort to be all that they can be but it’s worth it. Those Christ-centered relationships will be lasting relationships, not just here on earth, but stretching on into eternity with him at the forefront.

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to sin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18.24

I’ve been deeply blessed to have a close-knit group of Christian girlfriends. Now, we typically don’t all get together at the same time, but when we meet up (whether one-on-one for coffee or what-have-you, LifeGroup or a women’s event at church), that time is so rich and precious. We all vary in age and come from different backgrounds. Those differences (along with our similarities) make us stronger and better able to navigate and cope with the trials of life, individually (based on the advice and counsel of someone wiser) and as a unit.

And the same goes for my brothers in Christ. You’ve all done such a marvelous job in protecting the hearts of your sisters and encouraging them in their own walks with Jesus.

You know who you are and I am so thankful for each and every one of you. God has enriched my life with the blessing of friendship. So thank you for allowing him to use you in not just my life, but every life yours touches.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart…all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1.3-8

How about you? Are you the type of friend you should be, especially to your brothers or sisters in Christ? Are you doing all the things you should be doing: lifting burdens, being there, etc.?

If not, how can you improve in that area? And what would that look like?

Ask God to touch your heart with the truth of true friendship and to show you what it means to be a friend in Christ.

hold all things loosely

Teach me Your way, O LORD, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name. I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your name forever.” Psalm 86.11-12 NIV

A wise woman once said, “…you must learn to hold everything loosely…everything. Even your dear family. Why? Because the Father may wish to take one of them back to Himself, and when he does, it will hurt you if He must pry your fingers loose.” Those words were spoken by Corrie ten Boom upon one of her last visits to the church Charles Swindoll preaches at. Wonderful words of wisdom. If only we all had that knowledge from the get go.

Nothing tangible in this life belongs to me. Or to you. Nothing. It all belongs to God. It’s His. And yet, we have this sick tendency to hold on to every little tangible thing that we get in life, failing to see it for the blessing and gift that it is. We even try to hang on to emotions, which are as fleeting as the wind.

Even I belong to Him.  

Since God is sovereign, not only is our time in His very capable hands, but our possessions and all of the people we love or care about in this life belong to Him. Releasing our rights to Him includes the deliberate submission of our grip on everything and everyone. It is easy? Never. Although, I believe it may get easier with time as we learn, or in some cases, if we learn.

And as much as we each individually would hate to admit it, we love the things we possess so much that letting go of them becomes unbearable, even impossible. The things we cherish could be material, like our first car, or relational, like a first love or a friendship that becomes dear to us. Yet, there comes a time when we must release that which steals our affection from God. We must lay it down because He demands it.

Letting go is something I struggle with daily. I’ve written about it before. I’ve even talked about it with my accountability partner, multiple times. One would think that I would have accepted this truth by now. Over the years, I’ve had hopes dashed, relationships have come and gone, beloved pets have passed away and I’ve misplaced or lost items that once held deep meaning to me. One would think that I would have accepted the truth that nothing in this life lasts. Only God. He’s the only One I can cling to and I know He won’t ever leave…even during those times when He seems distant. We must remember that He is the source of every blessing we receive in this life.

I’ll be honest and share that it is difficult for me to grasp the truth that all things belong primarily to God at times.

What do we tend to hold onto? Relationships, goals and dreams, the past, old hurts, wrong ideas and perceptions (especially those that lead us to believe that we’re not worth it), timing, possessions, and more.  I’m guilty of it. The computer I do most of my research on at home belongs to Him. I worked hard to pay for that “toy,” and even though it’s a simple machine, I have a personal attachment to the thing because I’ve slaved over the keys for long periods of time. Or how about the closet full of fashionable clothing that caught my eye on the bargain rack? Or the plethora of books sitting on the bookshelf in my apartment? Or the car parked out back?

Now, I don’t believe He’ll call all of these “toys” home one day and we’ll be left with a metaphorical mechanical graveyard (a.k.a. junkyard)…God’s not interested in things. The thing is, He blessed me with the job that aided in earning the money needed to buy that machine. The job and the cash were gifts; blessings He saw fit to give me.  It’s when those items become idols; when they take the place He deserves, that it becomes a problem.

Now, how about the relationships I have with my girlfriends? Even those I have with my guy friends? My family? The very things that breathe fullness into this social butterfly’s world?

Again, we must remember that He is the source of every blessing we receive in this life. When we treasure His gifts more than our relationship with the Giver, He sometimes has to strip away some of those benefits. Anything you hold too tightly, you will lose.

We get several examples of this in scripture and I would like to take notice of Abraham the day he was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, through whom Abraham was supposed to have had descendents that outnumbered the stars in the sky. Get that? Abraham was asked to give him up. And what was his response? Obedience. God knew what He was doing and Abraham trusted Him. Completely. (See Genesis 17-22 if you are unfamiliar with the story).

I’ve been learning this the hard way (again) in this adventurous-ridden, beautiful life I’ve been given. I was given the gift of a relationship with another and I held on; probably a little too tightly at times. I tend do that… based on my own insecurities, hang-ups, the lies I’ve been told and my past. It’s twisted. And wrong. You would think a girl would learn by now after having experienced it all before. God has been testing my obedience to Him through all of this. What will be my next step; what direction is He leading me? I can’t even begin to think about the blessings that could come about because of how painful, faith-stretching and deep all of this has been. I’m focused on today; this very moment. What next?

I was driving back to Minneapolis this past weekend, my heart and gut in knots, when “This Life” by the Afters poured through the stereo system and I found myself reminded again:

…For a moment, we are here together
And it hits me that this won’t last forever

We can’t own it
We just get to hold it for a while
This Life.
We can’t keep it
Or save it for another time.
This Life…

What we give is all we have
How we love is what will last
And this Hope we know will carry us through this life.

How tightly do we hold on to the objects and things of this world? Would we be willing to surrender everything to God?

The obvious answer is “yes,” but when it comes to living that out, we realize how challenging that “yes” can become. It’s not just objects that can be perceived as God’s. He fearfully and wonderfully made each human being that has ever walked the face of this terrestrial planet. Each one of us. Are we willing to give Him our relationships day in and day out; to trust Him with their fragility? Are we even willing to give ourselves to Him each and every day? After all, He gave us breath and the bodies we have. He’s the only source that keeps us living.

We’d be wise to start practicing what Corrie ten Boom counseled above. “Remember…hold everything loosely…everything.” We must surrender all things to God.

It’s hard and we often reclaim ourselves. I do it all the time. Will I ever learn? By God’s grace, I believe I will.

But…

When we surrender ourselves and all that we are and have to God, then we have everything in its right place.

Is He the most important person in your life? Don’t fixate on your own objectives, your own dreams and relationships and thereby miss out on His blessings and purpose for you.

I pray that you’ll choose to make Him a priority. Open your hands and let Him have what you tend to hold on to; to cling to. We would be wise to hold loosely the things of this world and cling tightly to Him. No person can love you (or me) the way He does and no material thing can satisfy the deep longings of your heart.

When we allow God the place He’s meant to have (that of our first love), the blessings will flow beyond what we can even comprehend.

I cling to You; Your strong right hand upholds me. Psalm 63.8

Cling to Him and hold everything else loosely.

Hold tightly to Him only.

Love Always Protects; Always Trusts

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:6, 7

Love always protects.

The verb means to cover, to pass over in silence, to keep confidential. When we want to stop discussion of something we may say that we want to “put a lid on it.” Love throws a cloak of silence over what is displeasing in another person. Love finds a way to shelter the wrongdoer from exposure and condemnation.

The word for ‘making atonement’ in Hebrew means to cover. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross was the fulfillment of the purpose of the Day of Atonement celebrated each year in the Temple, when the sins of the people were covered by the blood of the offering in the Holy of Holies. Jesus was both the High Priest and the Sacrifice to take away our sins by covering them, ‘making atonement,’ and protecting us from condemnation. What God in Christ has done for us is meant to instruct us to do for others.

This is how we should treat one another. By extending to others our protection, our generosity, our forgiveness, we can enjoy it ourselves. Forgive as we have been forgiven. Loving one another in this way shows that we have the root of the matter in us – we have assimilated the nature of grace. We love one another deeply by not exposing the frailties of others. We are willing to make allowances, to overlook minor infractions. We are reluctant to drag faults of others into the light of day.

Nowhere is this more illustrated than in the incident of the woman taken in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11). Jesus knelt down and wrote with his finger in the ground. He who knew everything, knew also what the scribes and Pharisees knew, before they told him. They soon discovered her guilt, once her sin had been exposed. They also discovered a new sin, one which they were guilty of, by trying to ensnare Jesus with their question.

But Jesus ignored them and wrote with His finger on the ground. Why did he avert his gaze? Why did he write with his finger on the ground? Did he sit there like a judge who listens attentively to the story of the accusers, who, listening, bows down and jots down the principal points so that he may not forget them, and judge strictly? Was the woman’s guilt the only thing which was noted by the Lord? Or did he write with his finger in the dust in order to erase it and forget it?

There stood the sinner, surrounded by those even more guilty, who loudly accused her, but love bowed down and did not hear the accusation, which passed over his head into the air. He wrote with his finger in order to blot out what he knew: sin discovers a multitude of sins, but love covers a multitude of sins. People who look for sin are sure to find it. Love does not look for sin.

Jesus tells them to look into their own hearts: “If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Was he writing their sins on the ground and then erasing them? When they have all left leaving only the woman standing there with Jesus he asks, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” Her sin was covered. He would make atonement for it. But she had to change her behavior.

Love always protects by silence, by not gossiping about our neighbor’s faults, for in the retelling of them the truth is often embroidered until they bear little resemblance to reality. Love always protects through mitigating explanations.

Every event, every word, every act, everything, can be explained in numerous ways. The lover will choose the most mitigating explanation. We are not called to be judges or detectives seeking to uncover guilt. How many lives have been ruined by drawing the wrong conclusions about events, and making the wrong interpretation of an action.

Love always protects. God throws his covering over us in the atonement of Jesus on the Cross. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Jesus Christ the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1,2)

Love also trusts; at all times.

All relationships are built on trust. Without it, how can you possibly hope to interact with them on any level without constant fear that they’ll lie to you or betray you? But love, to give this passage another interpretation, gives the benefit of the doubt.

We’ve all been through times in life when someone has done something to earn our distrust. We can forgive, but we won’t soon forget, and it may take a while for them to regain our full trust. There’s nothing wrong with this, but the forgiving part is very essential. And it’s never ok to distrust someone based on someone else’s actions. It’s not your wife’s fault that your ex-girlfriend hurt you. It’s not your boss’s fault that your last employer fired you unjustly. Give the benefit of the doubt.

There are those who don’t deserve our trust, but they still need our love. We should do all we can to show them that they are indeed loved despite their inability to be believed. There’s no formula for this, it’s going to be different in every case. Praying for the Holy Spirit to work through us in the relationship is one step in the right direction.

Believe the best in those you love. Don’t easily jump to conclusions, assuming the worst. Give the benefit of the doubt and show trust, until such a time as that trust is betrayed, and even then work toward repairing that element of the relationship. Follow the example of Jesus, who even though He knew the hearts of all men, gave all a chance.

Scripture to encourage you in truth today:

But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what itme of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. Matthew 24:43

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh and strength to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8

Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs. Proverbs 10:12

Love covers a multitude of sins.  1 Peter 4:8

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Psalm 32:1

Today’s Challenge: Don’t air out the transgressions of your friends. Protect them from others. And forgive so you can trust again.

Trusting God

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:3-5

Confusion and chaos surround us. On the world stage, there are violent protests, brutal regimes, and the ever-present threat of nuclear war. On the national front, there are bitter disputes over healthcare, abortion, and the economy. At the local level, families struggle with rising gas prices, job security, and rearing children in a violent, dangerous, and pornographic culture. I have never been so uncertain about just about everything as I am at this time, and uncertainty breeds fear and stress. I simply do not know how to sort through all the issues that surround us. I do not know what to do.

And so it is that the words of this famous Proverb come to mind; along with the following points/thoughts.

  1. Someone we can trust.

    I believe that we make more out of our new year than God does, even though He is the God of new beginnings. With each new year, we kick off the festivities with a party and then turn to sharing advice with one another, stating that we’ll do things better in the year to come. Perhaps it would be wise if we would succumb to the following:

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart…

    Trust does not come easy for many of us. Society teaches that we should trust no one other than ourselves…case in point: depending on what part of the city you live in, you probably don’t even muster up a good morning to the well-mannered man or woman who greets you every morning on your way to work, just because…well, you never know. Or the husband or wife who’s broken your trust more than once…We’ve been hurt enough times that trusting another person is difficult.

    Still…what if there was Someone who has a proven record of faithfulness? What if there were Someone who had the ability to handle absolutely anything and follow through with our best in mind? What if there was Someone who had the ability to see us as we are; knowing our very heart and loving us in spite of ourselves? What if there was Someone who had all knowledge and understanding? What if there was Someone we knew who would be completely honest with us; always encouraging us to be what we should be; Someone who had the ability to make us better than we are?

    There is.

    God calls us to Himself. He has and continues to seek us out. Immanuel has come to us and has provided for our every need. He remains faithful to all – scripture is filled with examples of His faithfulness. We can look to Him for all things. To trust others without first and foremost trusting God is futile and hopeless. In Him alone is our trust secure. Trust in the Lord with all your heart…

  2. Not Relying on Ourselves

    Have you ever watched someone lean on an object or structure that you could easily see as unstable, only to watch that person fall? Or even have that happen to you? A self-proclaimed clutz, I’ve had that happen more than I care to count and I’m often wondering why I put my trust in something so futile to being with…crazy, huh?

    Perhaps we should ask why we base our lives upon something as insecure as our own understanding. Perhaps…

    Lean not on your own understanding…

    Somewhere in our “enlightenment,” we humans have concluded that we can accomplish anything by understanding; through intellect and reason. We believe that if we give ourselves enough time and knowledge, we can explain anything, correct all of society’s ills or heal any disease (among other things). We also tend to think that if we’re able to understand, then we will be able to deal with it. That’s a messed up way of thinking…especially since our understanding is finite. We simply cannot understand everything. Only God can.

    Another factor: Sin does not make sense.

    Who would delight in killing another? Why do some take pleasure in revenge? Why do we do things, knowing the risk? Will understanding the whys make it easier to heal the memory or even forgive? We tend to think so. But in reality, it doesn’t.

    God directs us not to lean on our own understanding. We don’t need it…we need biblical truth and wisdom, which are not always reasonable according the way we think. God’s ways are not our ways…His thoughts are not our thoughts. We’d best remember that.

    This is not a call to simply throw human reason to the wind. Quite the contrary. Reason is a God-given gift. Christianity is about thinking…seeking out truth…based on biblical wisdom and God-given discernment. Let human reason do all it can, but, at the same time, acknowledge it incapable of giving faith, hope or love. Expect this from Someone much higher than us.

  3. Acknowledging God

    Acknowledge.

    In all your ways, acknowledge Him…

    What does that look like?

    Acknowledge means to “admit to be true; recognize the authority or claims of; to admit or affirm as genuine.” Most would “acknowledge” God as true and genuine…but note…authority? Not very often. Many accept His existence, but not His true authority.

    According to the Hebrew term (and my lack of deep research), the term means to “recognize our wills are subject to His; trusting God; possessing a trusting attitude; quiet confidence; understanding His authority over our life.”

    Do we acknowledge God?

    I know I don’t the majority of the time. I fall short. We need to be answering those questions by our deeds and words every single day. Start now.

  4. God Directs Our Path

    No matter the direction, the promise remains the same: God will be in charge of directing us. However, there is a condition to this promise.

    We must first acknowledge Him…in all that we do. Sinners do not want God’s direction. Self-rule is their desire. Without acknowledging God in all our ways, we are left to our own sense of direction which is ruled by our lusts and desires and, thus, leads toward destruction. God’s will and direction are only interest to us when they suit  our needs, improve our life according to our standards, or we don’t know what to decide. Without total trust and surrender to His Sovereignty, we are not able to be fully directed by Him.

    Secondly, only when we are truly in tune with God are we fully able to recognize His guidance.  Finding His will is more of being in tune, be readily receptive, than discovery. God promises that He will direct our paths. We can trust Him. When we are struggling to know God’s will the problem is on the receiver’s end, not the sender! Are there times when God is silent? Yes. But in these times we remain faithful to what we know and continue to trust with all our hearts. His silence is never forever and is purposeful. Our trusting with all our hearts and refusal to lean on our own understanding keeps our lives tuned into God’s frequency. Only then is He able to direct us.

I do not need to know how to deal with all that threatens those around me. The only thing about which I must be certain is the Lord my God. What deep comfort these words offer! Trust the Lord with all your heart, ever single fiber of your being. Trust Him with your worries and fears, your struggles and challenges. Stop trying to figure it all out yourself. Acknowledge His sovereignty in your job, your marriage, your family, your finances, your political concerns, your dreams for the future. The God Who is Truth has promised that He will direct your paths.