God has a great way of providing “teachable moments” in our lives. Recently, our family seems to have spent many of these moments on friendships. Each of our children’s approaches and perspectives leads them to work through the intricacies of friendships in totally different ways. They are at different stages of identifying the characteristics of a true friend, an acquaintance, and sometimes a friend who is not really a friend at all.

As we navigate through these hurdles in life with our kids, it has caused me to reflect on the friendships I have had throughout my lifetime. Growing up, my dad worked for I.B.M., which, to families within the company, stands for “I’ve Been Moved.” So, having moved quite often as a child, I attended 3 different high schools in 3 different states. As a kid walking into new schools frequently, I became really good at making friends quickly but never truly developed the tools to continue these relationships long-term. God gave me a natural curiosity about people and things happening around me, so that helped me ask lots of questions and eventually build relationships. From the outside looking in, everyone assumed I was outgoing and an extrovert when I was really more of an introvert and a wallflower.

Even as an adult, learning how to navigate friendships takes hard work and diligence. Listening and discerning is truly an art at any age. Add into that a culture that relates primarily through technology, and it can be difficult to make true connections with people. Being friendly is never a difficult task for me, but becoming a “friend” is a whole other level of commitment. I can count my closest friends on one hand, but I am confident that those friends are on my team.  So how do we find lifelong friends that always have our back? And how can we pass that skill on to the next generation?

I decided to delve a little deeper into the art of friendships, how we define them, and how we navigate them in a Godly way. 

Let’s start with the difference between friends and acquaintances. A friend according to Webster’s Dictionary is one attached to another by affection or esteem. 

An acquaintance is someone with whom one has a small amount of knowledge or familiarity. Because we “friend” someone on social media does not define them as a friend, especially when we see how hostile some of our “friends” can be when they disagree with a social media post. In a classroom, classmates might seem to be “friends” because of the time we spend with them daily, but most are just acquaintances, and there is not a lot of affection being shared.

God shares a great example of friendship in 1 Samuel 20-23. In these few chapters, tension grows between King Saul and David because Saul disobeys God and knows that David will replace him as King. At the same time, the friendship between David and Saul’s son, Jonathan, deepens. Jonathan knows he will never sit on the throne, but he seeks to protect and assist David from his father’s murderous plans. 

Despite the conflict between David and Saul, Jonathan’s affection and love towards David is an amazing example of a true friend. Jonathan purposefully moves himself from being an acquaintance to a true friend. This transformation occurs over hundreds of miles and nearly a decade; ultimately, his efforts result in David’s success. Having a character like Jonathan’s, loyal, dependable, brave, loving, and most importantly, a Christ follower, can be difficult to find. Jonathan’s are rare in life, perhaps because the key to finding a Jonathan is becoming a David. 

What does it mean though, to become a “David”?  His life was a rollercoaster of success and failure, and we see in the Bible that David was far from perfect. But David is called a man after God’s own heart because he had absolute faith in God. His heart was focused on God, and he deeply desired to follow His will and do what God wanted him to do. He never forgot to thank the Lord for everything that he had. He was truly a man after God’s own heart. In his friendship with Jonathan, David honored him, valued him, listened to his advice, and trusted him.

Applying these words of wisdom to our lives and choosing to follow God’s will by loving Him wholeheartedly transforms us into being more like God. We grow into more compassionate, trustworthy, faithful, and kind friends. As we work to build healthy friendships, we must also be thankful for all things and all parts of our friends, and we hope they will react equally. 

To develop that “circle of trust” or “true friendships,” we must do our part to seek out Jonathans in our own lives! Seek out those friendships that lift us all to the next level and help us grow into Davids. Seeking God’s will for our lives helps us to be that person who is lovable, compassionate, trustworthy, faithful, and kind…a “David”!

As we seek to build true friendships, I wanted to share one of the “Checklists” we are going to use to help guide our family in finding the Jonathan’s in our lives:

-Choose someone who knows you fully and accepts you completely, even on your worst days.

-Choose someone with whom you can share your deepest hurts and who keeps your confidence.

-Choose someone who will listen, comfort, and encourage you.

-Choose someone who will hold you accountable and help you grow closer to God.

-Choose someone who will defend you when you are not around and not participate in gossip.

-Choose someone who cheers you on and celebrates your victories, even when they aren’t in the spotlight.

– Continue to pray that God brings us friendships that draw us closer to Him.

Friendships can be costly, demanding sacrifice and sensitivity, but that is what makes them so precious. Learning to develop healthy and loving friendships takes work, dedication, forgiveness, and love. 

Your healthy friendships start with choosing to keep God’s word close to our hearts. Seeking out the Jonathans in your life who lift you and your family up, who edify you with godly advice, and who seek to follow God, as you also desire to follow God. 

And if you are in a season of waiting for those deeper friendships, ask God to show someone who needs a Jonathan, and show you how you might love and support them as their friend. You may be surprised how quickly a true friendship can bloom where we least expect it.

I hope we can all impact the world by being Davids and Jonathans for our own friends, exemplifying God’s framework through the story of David and Jonathan in our friendships. God has given us the tools to choose our friends wisely and to help us create our own “circle of trust” with “kindred spirit” friends, which will reflect the love of Jesus to the world around us.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” —Colossians 3:12-14