Have you ever stopped and looked around you? Have you ever inventoried your life and actually taken note of the people whom you spend most of your time talking and dining and hanging out together? We all know they say that raising kids takes a village, and believe me, as a single parent of twins for over a decade, I can attest to this. But I am here to tell you that “adulting” also requires people around you who support and encourage you and are there for you when life goes really wrong. And unfortunately, we all know that it will at some point. Whether it is health, finances, relational problems between family or spouses, divorce, or death, life is hard. This is so because of the fall of man in the garden as depicted in the Bible in Genesis. The book of Genesis offers a host of valuable information to us from the creation of the world to the creation of man to God’s determination that it was not good for man to be alone, our first indication that God knew, even as early as Adam, that humans need other humans. We need companionship. We need hugs and touch. We need compassion and understanding. We need confidants. We need advice and support. We need encouragement. We need to be loved.
Friends, you must know your circle. It is a fact of life that we are going to have to deal with difficult issues, and if you do not currently have any significant hardships, consider yourself fortunate. But also prepare yourself so you will know where to go or to whom to turn when that time comes, which sadly, it invariably will at some point. It is so very important to know your circle. Know the people around you that you can turn to when your circumstances are unthinkable, unimaginable, and heartbreaking. Know the friends you can call on when you are even just feeling less than, or unworthy. You see, it is not just in our role of raising children that we need support. .
Be an encourager like Paul, who wrote to area congregations from his jail cell, trying to lift up and help these churches keep following after Jesus and doing the will of God in spite of persecution and all kinds of hardships. (Philippians 1:23-26). Sometimes the role of a friend is to provide guidance, like Paul. (Philippians 1:27). Though at other times, our friends may just need us to sit with them and lift them in prayer. There are occasions when I feel at a loss as to how to really help my friends, and I have made statements such as “I wish I knew what else to do, but I will at least pray for you.” I have thought back on those statements with regret, realizing that I actually put down the idea of prayer. Do not think that telling someone you will pray for them is doing “nothing” – assuming you intend to actually do it! Prayer changes things. Read that again. Yes, prayer really changes things. Prayer is powerful and is actually one of, if not the most, important thing you can do for anyone. While we do not always get precisely the answer that we think we should get, it does not mean that our prayers are not being heard or answered. Romans 8:28 states that “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Prayer may not save your friend from divorce or even death, but it will change things, if only provide the comfort that he needs while enduring the struggle. When I first discovered that my prior marriage was at an end, a friend of mine prayed, at my request, that I not be left alone but she added that if I was alone, that God would make me content. That is not exactly what I was hoping for, but let me tell you that is what I received for over 14 years. Friends, PRAYER IS POWERFUL! Romans 8:28 should not be read to say that only good things will happen to Christians but that all things will work together for good. My divorce was not a good thing, but God has worked it for good in my life, though it took years.
Recently, a friend in my circle received some really frightening health news, and she knew who to call on. And several of us, me included, dropped everything and made ourselves available to go to this friend. Few things in this life could be more important than being a friend to a friend. Can I heal my friend? No. Can I change the diagnosis? Of course not. I cannot assure that everything will be ok, because that is not something I can promise. It’s beyond my pay grade. However, there are important and helpful things that I can do. I can sit with my friend in solidarity. I can hug on and hold my friend’s hand and even cry together. I can love on her. I can pick up groceries or make her a meal. But most importantly, I can pray to God on behalf of my friend. I can call upon the Lord to comfort, heal, and wrap His love around her. I can lift my friend in prayer and this is powerful!
Now, this is no easy role to fill. It truly grieved my heart when I heard this recent news of my own friend. Even just the possibility that something this serious could be happening to her grieved me. It hurts when our friends suffer, and let me tell you, that is when you know you are with the right people, that you are in the right circle. You should feel the warmth and encouragement from your friends – if they are truly your people. It should grieve us when our friends get bad news or they are disappointed by their family or spouse due to relational issues or are struggling with financial problems or mourning the loss of beloved family members. Real friends celebrate each other’s joys with true gratitude and happiness, but they also help carry the load, bear the burdens, the heavy, the negative, the hard, that’s what friends do. In case you didn’t know, that is what your circle should do for you. In Galatians 6:2, Paul tells us to “bear one another’s burdens” and this is what we must do.
Throughout the Bible, we are told to treat others the way we wish to be treated and to do good to others. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Jesus gives His commandment in John 15:12 that we “love one another” as He has loved us. We are advised to bear with one another and forgive one another in Colossians 15:13. Romans 12:9-13 states to let “love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.”
So, the next time your phone rings and it is your friend expressing a need, drop what you are doing and run to that friend. Love on your friend, build her up and encourage her. Lift her in prayer. Be a solid, safe, and discreet confidant. Ultimately, be the kind of friend you want to have in your life.
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