The Rare Treasure of a True Friend | March 13th, 2023
“Mom! You won’t believe what happened today!” I couldn’t wait to tell her all about it and would never dream of leaving out a single detail!
One of the greatest treasures my mother ever gave to me was her friendship. Not only did she teach me the importance of friendship, but she was also a beautiful role model of how to be a true friend.
It has been 11 years since Jesus took her Home to be with Him on March 13, 2012 after her battle with breast cancer. Looking back to that time, “battle” doesn’t seem to be the right word for it. She had so much peace through it all from the beginning of the diagnosis to taking her last breath. She knew that whatever happened, God was in control and His ways were higher than her ways. It was so much harder for those of us who loved her deeply and were left here to continue on in life without her.
I greatly miss being able to pick up the phone to share all the details of my day with her – the silly things, heavy things, exciting things, surprising things, memorable things, and even the mundane things. We talked about it all. And every so often, we got to share life face to face when we traveled across the many miles to see each other. That, of course, was the best!
A dear friend and I recently took in the sights and smells of the beautiful Arboretum. With it being nearly spring now, the ground was fully blanketed in colorful, blooming tulips with an intoxicating, sweet-smelling fragrance of purple hyacinth mixed in. Walking and talking for hours together about the deep things of life, encouraging one another with wise, godly counsel, and cheering each other on toward the finish line of this earthly life was such a delightful fragrance to us both, much like those aromatic flowers!
That’s exactly what King Solomon wrote about in Proverbs 27:9:
Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.
Friendships Take Time and Effort
How many loyal, devoted, trustworthy, stick-by-your-side-no-matter-what, genuine friends can you say you have? If you have any at all, be so grateful! They are a rare treasure. In order for them to grow and strengthen, friendships take time and effort which most people are not willing to give. Many who are dissatisfied about not having any good friends are often too busy with other commitments, don’t have the energy, are too stressed out, or are self-absorbed with things that give them quicker gratification. For others, it may be that they are afraid of emotional intimacy or having to be vulnerable and authentic. So when you find a faithful and true friend willing to give of themselves, it is a huge blessing that should never be taken for granted.
One detrimental effect of not investing time and effort into friendships is loneliness – a very real struggle for so many. A survey conducted in May of 2021 by the Survey Center on American Life found that an increasing number of people could not identify a single person as a “close friend.” In 1990, only 3% of Americans said that they had no close friends. In 2021, that percentage had risen to 12%. A study conducted by Harvard in the same year found that 36% of Americans report “serious loneliness.”
Research from the Roots Of Loneliness Project (updated January 2023) using data sources including the National Library of Medicine (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), YouGov, and Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) found the following sobering statistics on loneliness:
52% of Americans report feeling lonely while 47% report their relationships with others are not meaningful.
58% of Americans report that they sometimes or always feel like no one knows them well.
49% of Americans report having three or fewer close friends.
Loneliness Connection to Social Media
As of 2022, 3.96 billion people use social media which is approximately half of the world’s population. The average person spends 147 minutes (2 hours, 27 minutes) on social media each day.
Without physical presence and emotional intimacy, it is not possible to build and maintain meaningful relationships with online-only interactions. Using social media as a substitute for real connection with people is sure to increase loneliness. In fact, 71% of heavy social media users admit to experiencing feelings of loneliness. One study actually found that reduced use of social media showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression.
God knows our desire to be fully known and loved. He made us for companionship.
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18
When we choose the right kinds of friends, they can be an incredible source of love, healing, joy, encouragement, wisdom, and much needed support. Friendships are as important to our health and well-being as nutritious food, clean water, and unpolluted air!
How to be a True Friend
I am so grateful to God for the years He gave me with my mother who became my close friend as I entered adulthood. Here are a few things I learned from her about being the kind of friend that is a rare treasure…
Be a good listener. I always appreciated the way my mother gave me undistracted eye contact while I shared with her. She did not interrupt and try to immediately fix my troubling situation or jump in with a similar experience of her own. She just let me talk! She was responsive in a loving, kind way and affirmed that she heard me by confirming, supporting, and empathizing with me. How important it is for your friend to know you hear them and that you are really listening!
In a group of 2,171 adults who had participated in a 2021 Framingham Heart Study, those who reported having someone in their lives they could count on as a good listener were more likely to have higher levels of cognitive resilience. This is a measure of brain health which is known to be protective against brain aging and diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. What a great benefit of having a friend who is a good listener!
Share from the heart. It is impossible to have a close connection with someone when you only share the shallow things of life such as the weather report or your latest purchase. True friendships are meant to go deep. Otherwise, they are simply a casual acquaintance. Deep conversations feed our soul! They can help two people understand each other much more authentically. If you never share any burdens or heartaches and everything is always just fine and fabulous in your life, you will never have a true friendship. A dishonest coverup of what is really going on is a sure way to keep the relationship superficial.
My mother loved discussing the deeper things of life, always through a biblical lens. She would often have her Bible open and ready, pointing to passages that brought the light of God’s truth into our discussions. This helped me grow tremendously in my faith and knowledge of God. Like a good friend, she was honest and willing to confront me, when necessary, with the purpose of helping me continue in a right relationship with God. For example, if I got involved with dating an unbeliever, we talked about the future consequences and heartache of being unequally yoked in marriage. She would always remind me that the man I marry would be someone I dated!
Spend time together. Time is a gift you can never get back and you only have a limited amount of it, so it is the most valuable gift you can give someone. Whenever I asked my mom what she would like for her birthday or Mother’s Day, she would always reply, “I want YOU, Kimberly!”
It is so important to spend face-to-face time together to build a bonding, lasting friendship. Find an activity you both enjoy such as taking a brisk or leisurely walk, going to the farmer’s market on a sunny afternoon, having a picnic at the park, trying an unusual cuisine at a new restaurant, or doing a Bible study together. I personally enjoy having a friend over for one-on-one time to visit over a home-cooked meal without feeling rushed or having to deal with noise or crowds.
Sharing experiences with someone is a natural desire. It’s not nearly as enjoyable to go out to eat or take a vacation alone. Our brains are wired to form social connections. It draws us closer to someone when we can share our enthusiasm and curiosity together.
Choose Your Friends Wisely
When I was in my teens, I remember a valuable piece of advice my mother gave me about friendships. She told me that my closest friends should be close to Jesus. She explained that they are the ones who will give you godly advice, will pray with you and for you, will keep you accountable to walk in holiness, will give you correction when you wander down the wrong path, and will help you carry your heavy burdens.
I could not comprehend how wise her words were at the time. But now that I am older and can choose my friends with discernment, I totally get it. I have found out how greatly my friends influence me the more time I spend with them. I have learned that it’s my godly friends who will give me wise advice and help me become more like Christ. Wisdom comes from God’s Word, so if my friends are in the Word they will be giving me wise counsel and those are the friends I can trust.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:20
I love studying God’s Word and have found several friends who have the same passion. We meet together every other week to share what we are learning through our study of who God is and the ways He is working in us and through us day to day. Talk about encouraging! We pray for each other and watch with amazement how God answers our specific prayers. It is the biggest boost to our faith as we see Him answer even the smallest details of our prayers that many might say God could care less about. But He does care and He responds, always in His perfect timing. As we draw ever so much nearer to the day of Jesus’ soon return and watch with shock as the world grows increasingly darker, how important it is, just as the Bible tells us, to have godly friends to meet with regularly to keep us encouraged!
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
We all need good friends with whom we can laugh, cry, share deep things, give and take godly advice, make sweet memories through shared experiences, and simply lean on during difficult times. My mom was all of that for me in such a beautiful way.
Our Best Friend
Perhaps you have struggled with finding a true friend that you feel like you can really trust. The moment you put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior, that is the beginning of the very best friendship you could ever have. He desires an intimate relationship with you and yearns for you to draw close to Him. He provides godly wisdom and guidance through His Word. He picks you up when you fall and carries your heavy burdens. He listens to every word you say and understands your heart. He knows everything about you including the number of hairs on your head. Your desire to be fully known and deeply loved is perfectly fulfilled in Him!
O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all. Psalm 139:1-4
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
The friendships we make in this life are a precious gift. What a joy and comfort it is for us to know this world is not our forever Home and we will be spending eternity in a place where we will never have to say “goodbye.” This is the hope I cling to when I am feeling sadness, knowing I will see my mother again and pick right back up where we left off. Perhaps we will be catching up while walking leisurely through beautiful blooming flowers, taking in the sweet fragrance of true friendship.
Written in honor of my mother, Susan Nelson, who went to be with her Savior 11 years ago today on March 13, 2012.
Kimberly Moore is a blogger, speaker, and author of Beauty in a Life Repurposed and Kingdom Sparkle. To learn more, visit her website at kingdomsparkle.com.
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