Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I like reading the Good Weekend magazine from The Sydney Morning Herald. Have done so every Saturday for years. And one article caught my eye by journalist Frank Robson (“Why do so many friendships dissolve as we age”, Good Weekend, August 11, 2018).
He describes his life from many years ago enjoying the company of close friends during the turbulent years of journalism in the 1970s. His mates meant a lot—and it’s interesting to watch what happens as the years roll on, and one by one these friendships fall away. Some die of cancer, and others drift away. A few he still sees, but not many.
Frank Robson gives some interesting statistics. Like, for example, more than one million Aussie men aged between 30 and 65 have few or no social connections. Another poll suggests that 17 per cent of all Australians have no friends they could visit without invitation. So it seems there are many of us who don’t feel comfortable just ‘dropping by’ to say hello at the spur of the moment. Males over 55 tend to be the most socially isolated even if they are married.
The value of good friends
Relationships Australia did a survey. And it revealed 30 per cent of women had five or more close friends. Only 19 per cent of men can say the same thing. I found these facts intriguing. What does it mean? There are many people—especially us men—who do not have close friends. They are lonely and socially disconnected. Maybe, as Frank Robson suggests, we lose friends as we get older due to the changing circumstances of life.
This saying on friendship says it all: “He who has a good friend, has a treasure.” As we move forward in our lives, some people come and some people go, but good, true friends are there with you no matter the circumstances. In some way or another, they’re always by your side. If you have good friends who bring you happiness, you could actually live longer. All of your friends will make you feel loved, like an important member of a small society, and they’ll also care about you and your physical and emotional wellbeing. A true friend will tell you what they think. They’ll tell you if they think something isn’t a good idea, with you and your happiness in mind. They’ll be your adviser. And they’ll also help you to feel healthier, to have a better life, and to feel a different way about sharing your love with others.
I like what the Bible says in Proverbs 18:24 (CEV) “Some friends don’t help, but a true friend is closer than your own family”. Each of us needs encouragement from time to time. How wonderful it would be to have one friend who comes alongside to help and lift up your spirit. It seems from surveys taken that not many people have such a person in their life. A wise man said, “A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.”
Good friends—a gift from God
And when you think about it, good friends are a gift from God. And God wants you to be a good friend. Gladys Aylward was a missionary to China in the early 1900s. Her life story was made into the movie The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. As a little girl, she had two great sorrows. One was that all of her friends had beautiful blond hair, while her hair was coal black. The other sorrow was that her friends kept growing tall after Gladys stopped at 4’ 10”.
But then God called Gladys Aylward to be a missionary in China. And when she stood on the wharf in Shanghai, she looked around at the people and saw that every single one of them had black hair. And every one of them had stopped growing when Gladys did. Gladys looked up to God and said: “Lord God, You know what You’re doing!” God was preparing her to make new friends—and be a wonderful friend to the Chinese. God knows what he is doing when you want to befriend others. So, to find friendship you need to be friendly yourself.
Being a good friend requires hard work. It’s not a one-way street. How are you doing in your friendships?
A business partner became very upset when he realised he was carrying more than half the work load. To vent some frustration he sought the counsel of a friend. Over lunch, the hardworking man shared his grievance. Quietly and patiently the friend heard out this distraught worker. He then reached for a glass of water and shared a significant truth:
Water is the foundation of life. All the planets we know about are barren, because they don’t have water. For water to exist there must be teamwork, but that teamwork isn’t mutually equal. Water is made up of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, H₂O. Hydrogen has to work twice as hard as oxygen. If a business—marriage, friendship, or church—is to thrive, we must be willing to sometimes work twice as hard as others.