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Friends

Every so often, I, like you, no doubt, receive a "friend request" on social media. And we've all no doubt often even sent our own such requests to others with whom we want to connect--or reconnect.


I received one friend request recently that made me recall an essay I once read. Written by Judith Viorst, it categorized types of friends and was appropriately titled "Friends, Good Friends, and Such Good Friends."


Most of the people to whom we refer as "friends" are really only acquaintances. Many of them are work colleagues, neighbors, or people with whom we once went to high school or college. But we never really got close to them or have lost track of them after we graduated, each of us moving in our own direction in life. We might even have at one time considered them close friends or even "best buds."


But then life happens. We marry, have kids, have different careers, move in different circles, and lose touch. We have a lot of such "acquaintance friends."


Then there are good friends, and the number of those we have is far fewer than our number of acquaintances. Good friends rise above the mere acquaintance level. They are probably the people with whom we currently share interests and involvements, do things together, even confide to a degree. But there is still a distance, something that prevents total commitment, transparency, and trust.


And then there are the "such good friends," people with whom we have a very close relationship. We share things with those people that we wouldn't share with the "good friends" and certainly never with the mere acquaintances. We confide in them and are transparent with them and seek their advice and opinions.


Even if we are separated by vast amounts of time and distance, when we do get back together, whether virtually by phone or social media or in person, we pick up right where we left off.


It's often said that if in life one has even five such true friends, he or she is well blessed. Many people have fewer than five. "Such good friends" are few and far between.


I, like you, have "friends" in all three of those categories.


I read a report recently that said 52 percent of Americans indicate they are lonely; 47 percent say the relationships they do have are meaningless. Fifty-eight percent say they feel that no one knows them well. Most alarming (to me, anyway) is that more than 80 percent of people under age 18 say they are lonely. (See the full report here: https://www.crossrivertherapy.com/research/loneliness-statistics#:~:text=Key%20Loneliness%20Statistics%20%26%20Facts,t%20have%20any%20close%20friends.)


These startling statistics come at a time when the average person on social media reportedly has 669 "social ties," or "friends," and the average cell phone user has 506 social ties. With so many people having so many "friends," how is it that so many people say they are lonely?


Could it be that their contacts, or ties, are not really friends after all?


That leads me to consider the best friend one could ever have: the Lord Jesus Christ.


It also reminds me of the words of an old (1855) hymn:


What a Friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

. . . .

O what peace we often forfeit,

O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer.


The hymn goes on to say that we can go to Him with our trials, temptations, and troubles, knowing that He understands and helps us deal with them. Doing so prevents discouragement and depression because He knows us--everything about us--really knows us!


Our "friends," whether acquaintances or even "good friends," often will disappoint or desert us, but Jesus never will. He promises, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Heb. 13:5).


They hymn asks, "Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?" It then answers that Jesus will "take and shield thee" in His arms, and "thou wilt find a solace [relief, comfort] there."


I can still hear in my mind my mother singing another old (1866) hymn, "I've Found a Friend, O Such a Friend!" It says that Christ's love and true friendship is such that it makes one willing to pledge, "My heart, my strength, my life, my all are His and His forever." It describes Him as a wise Counselor and guide, a mighty defender, and an eternal friend.


Still another old (1910) hymn, "Jesus, What a Friend of Sinners," says that Jesus Christ is "a strength in weakness," "a help in sorrow," and a "guide and keeper." And "when my heart is breaking, He, my comfort, helps my soul." Its chorus ends with a general summary of just how great a Friend He is: "Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end!"


It might be good to have social media "friends" and to be such a friend to others, but the best friend is far better than all those. No matter how many social media "friends" one has, many are still left feeling lonely. Christ never leaves one with that feeling!






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