I wonder: Have you ever been lonely? I mean, desperately lonely. Without a friend in the world? No one to talk to? No one who really understands. Oh sure, you have conversations, but those seem to be more surface conversations than significant ones.
Some years ago, that described me to a tee. I found myself as a brand-new college graduate all alone in a strange town with a new job and no one with whom to form a mutual friendship. The loneliness just overwhelmed me. Oh, the job was great. The people I worked with were tremendous. But most of them were married and I could not see myself forcing my way into their lives just to avoid being alone.
You may have heard of the song entitled “Lookin’ for Love in All the Wrong Places.” Well, that describes my plight in those early days just out of college. Now, I did not go to the extremes that Johnny Lee sang about, but I found myself desperate to make a friend and doing almost anything to do it.
It was then that one night, I finally decided I had tried things on my own long enough. I came home from work, made my TV dinner, and sat in my apartment living room floor – and cried out to God as I ate it (The TV dinner, as I remember it, was not very good!).
Then I did something I should have been doing all along (something besides crying out to God!) – I pulled out my Bible and began to read. Now I did not know my Bible very well, but in the front of my Bible was one of those pages entitled “Where to Turn When You Are…” And under the category “Lonely”, it directed me to John 15.
I turned there and began to read. It was not so helpful until I read v. 13 – “Greater love has no one than this, that one lays down his life for his friends.” Now that verse had been one I had read before, but on that night, it just popped out of the page. But the next four words really grabbed me “YOU ARE MY FRIENDS…” (Emphasis mine).
Those four words changed my life, and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” became my theme song… for life! I had read them before but that night I knew like never before I had a friend in Jesus no matter what.
I read those verses over and over that night and realized a couple of things about them. First, I did not choose to be a friend of Jesus. He chose me! Second, it was not something I had to live up to, it was already a done deal. Third, having Jesus as my friend does not require perfection. If you look in the Bible, only two people were ever called friends of God – Abraham and Moses – and neither of them were perfect. David was called “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam 13:14), and by no means was he perfect. Being a friend of God does not mean you and I have to be perfect.
But God has taken the initiative in declaring any who would trust in Jesus alone for their salvation and take Him at his Word and become His disciples as “My friends.” As one scholar puts it, by His very nature God is a friend to us. He loves us with a perfect love and reaches out to us with salvation when we can offer nothing in return. It is quite another thing when someone has a heart so devoted to Him that God initiates a special friendship. And David is a great example of this: Read David’s life story in 1 and 2 Samuel and read his heart songs in the many psalms that he wrote, and you will see just how much his heart was totally devoted to God. Even though David was not sinless, he loved God and hated sin. He loved to worship God and he took genuine delight in God’s presence, offering gifts of song, thanksgiving, and praise, asking for nothing in return. God’s commentary on the life of David is found in one verse I Kings 14:8, where He said, “…my servant David…kept My commandments and…followed Me with all his heart, to do only that which was right in My sight.” Jesus Himself even quoted from David’s words as He hung upon the cross. David was indeed a friend of God.
As I sat on my apartment floor that night crying out to God in my loneliness, God answered my prayer. He let me know that He called me His friend. That night I needed no closer friendship than with Jesus and determined that if I had no other friends at all, His friendship would be more than enough! Since I made that decision, Jesus has met my every need and, by the way, has brought many good friends into my life who will indeed stand by me! After Jesus called His disciples His friends, there developed such an intimate friendship between them that He would share what was on His heart with His friends.
God wants that for you, too! If you cannot describe yourself as a friend of God, commit yourself to seek after God with all your heart.
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for this newspaper and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at [email protected].