Sometimes I see the Lord working in themes in my life. And while I love the consistency of themes, it often catches me off guard.
I found myself caught off guard this week when God-honoring friendships kept coming up. Turning over in my mind what I was experiencing and running through what I was hearing and trying to contrast it all against the Word of God. And more than that, how do I take all of that and move forward?
I love friendships, I am thankful the Lord saw fit to design us for fellowship and to give us friends to fill that need. I have so many rich friendships. My life is so much richer for the people the Lord has seen fit to share with me. I love the Sarah Groves song that sings, “Life with you is half as hard, and twice as good.”
I have so many people that fit that description and I am so deeply grateful for each one.
But I also have people that could be better described as, “Life with you is twice as hard and half as good.”
I am an introvert by nature, and more of a listener than a talker (in terms of interpersonal relationships) and I am passive and a homebody and sometimes that makes “friendship” feel like it is all jagged edges.
While I love that the Bible allows for boundaries, my nature often adopts an “endure endure endure” perspective with the people that are more challenging.
Please don’t get me wrong, even the best friendship’s hit bumps. And while I always wrestle with the challenge of it, I never fail to be thankful on the other side of it. Thankful that the Lord grew me, thankful for friends that love me enough to say the hard thing, thankful for people willing to see me through the hard thing, thankful the Lord sustained me through someone else’s hard thing, thankful I have had some faith someone could borrow for a time, thankful to be the recipient of someone else’s faith for a time.
But you know the hard relationships I am talking about, right? The one’s that seem to be all challenges? The ones where you are always on the giving end. Where you always take responsibility, where there is something that always needs fixing? The relationships that don’t make life feel richer, they just make everything taste a bit sour?
In the midst of my friendship theme and all the things the Lord was bringing to heart and to mind, a dear friend of mine and I were discussing an especially challenging friendship, and she said something to the effect of, “I need you to help me know when enough is enough and I am holding onto the friendship out of determination, not because it is God-honoring.”
That’s the hardest line isn’t it?
The line of “Am I holding onto this because the Lord is asking me too or because I am determined to not fail at this?”
And sometimes, the Lord calls us to a hard relationship and sustains us through that relationship and continually calls us over and over and over and over to that person. And we persevere and lean into Him and do the best we can with what we are given. And we know and love the Lord all the better for it.
But does He call us to let go of the friendship? And how do we do that?
I got to wondering if there is ever a time where the purpose of a friendship might be that we are the one that carries them to Jesus and leaves them there.
“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” [Mark 2:1-12]
Do you suppose that sometimes the purpose of a friendship might be that we were the one who would hand them off to the Lord? That we weren’t required to walk with them throughout it all and endure, endure, endure alongside them, but rather be the one to hand them off to the only One capable of healing? The only One capable of meeting their every need?
Maybe we are the only person in our friends world who would lead them to the feet of Jesus, and entrust them to Him.
My gut would be to call myself a failure in that. To not even go there or contemplate that option, because that would be me failing as a friend. Failing as a human. Failing as a Christian.
But you know? In Mark 2, I find myself rejoicing for those men that endured long enough to get their friend to the feet of Jesus. They got it. They got what their friend needed. And they left him at Jesus’ feet until he, ON HIS OWN, could walk away healed.
They put him before Jesus and took their hands off, and kept their hands off until Jesus had accomplished in him what only He could accomplish in him.
Here is the thing, I don’t think the paralytic would have experienced that same healing if his friends hadn’t gone all-in, hands-off before the Lord. Don’t get me wrong, the Lord can heal with our hands on, or hands off. The Lord does what He sees fit and He doesn’t let us ruin His goodness. But if the friends hadn’t released their friend before the Lord – this story would have played out so differently.
It occurs to me that in releasing their friend, they weren’t giving up on the friendship, or “unfriending” him. They were merely entrusting their friend and their friendship to the Lord.
And you know maybe, occasionally, we get to be the person who brought our friend to Jesus, and the person who trusted Jesus enough to leave them there.