Building Friendship

     Three in five American adults state they consider themselves to be lonely (The Lonely Century, Noreena Hertz, 6).  Sixty percent of U.S. nursing home residents say they never have any visitors (The Lonely Century, Noreena Hertz, 7).  We long for attachment wherever we can find it.  There are already cases of children learning “Alexa” before “Mama” (The Lonely Century, Noreena Hertz, 191).  So, why do many of us feel so alone?  What is God’s solution to this feeling so many of us experience?
      God has given us many ways to help with our loneliness:  relationship with Him, marriage, relationship with creation (i.e. pets), and friendship.  The first question Jesus asks in the gospel of John is “What do you want?” (John 1:38).  According to author Curt Thompson, MD, what we deeply want is to be seen, safe and secure.  Connection is crucial as we are designed for it.  While this connection is ultimately fulfilled in our relationship with God; friendships with others are part of God’s plan to satisfy our desire for attachment.  Woven through the Scripture are stories of deep friendships, Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, Jesus and the Apostles and Paul and Barnabas, just to name a few.         
      What are the building blocks of friendship?  Connection is a skill that can be learned and improved.         First, to build a strong friendship find common ground or shared goals.  For example, in the famous friendship of David and Jonathan, living in a generation that had rejected God, they both had a heart for God’s honor and kingdom.  They met when David, who came to bring his soldier brothers food, heard the giant Goliath taunting God and his people.  King Saul (Jonathan’s father) should have gone out to fight Goliath, but he was too afraid.  David courageously fought and killed Goliath, giving Jonathan a powerful lesson in faith and courage.  They were close friends from that moment on. 
     Second, to build a great friendship, practice genuine conversation.  Turn your phone off and focus on the person in front of you.  Actually listen (James 1:19a).  When someone is talking do not focus on what your response will be; give your full attention to what they are saying.  This intense listening is a true gift to give someone in our distracted culture.  Author Carey Nieuwhof says that “Love has a speed . . .love pauses.  Love lingers” (Didn’t See It Coming, 84).  When sitting with a friend BE FULLY PRESENT.
       Third, practice selfless humility.  Most in ancient Israel would have said the next king after Saul would be his son Jonathan.  But God had chosen David.  Jonathan put his submission to God and his friendship to David above his own advancement.   History is littered with many who have killed to become king, but not Jonathan; he openly said that David would be the next king, a powerful example of selfless humility in friendship (1 Samuel 23:16, 17) .   Our call to selfless humility will probably not involve something so radical but putting what is best for our friend over our own self interest is a profound key to a deep friendship. 
       Fourth, faithful loyalty makes all the difference.  David’s loyalty to Jonathan even survived Jonathan’s death in battle.  When David became king he found Jonathan’s son, a potential threat to David’s kingship and invited him to regularly eat at his table.  David treated this young man as a son out of loyalty to Jonathan. 
     I am blessed to have several great friends.  They add much joy, laughter and beauty to my life.  I encourage you to remember that friendship matters.  Start today, pursue connection, be a friend.

Pastor Derek Dickinson
 Journey Christian Church