Making Room for Friendship

In the 1935 film, The Bride of Frankenstein, there’s an interesting scene where the monster stumbles into a blind man’s cottage deep in the forest. The blind man, of course, can’t see the ugliness of the monster, but he perceives the monster can’t speak.

He says, “I cannot see, and you cannot speak…Maybe we can help each other. We shall be friends!” And then, the blind man gets down on his knees, and prays, “I thank you, Lord, for you have heard my prayers, and have sent me a friend in my terrible loneliness.”

Eventually, the blind man teaches the monster to speak. And the only words that Frankenstein knows (like “good” and “food” and “more”) – the only sense of humanity he develops, he gains during his time in the cottage with the blind man. [CLIP}

The episode ends when a group of hunters come to the cottage, see the monster, attack it, and in the process, burn down the cottage. The last thing you see is the monster groping back out into the cold wilderness, saying, “Friend? Friend?”

There is nothing more humanizing (and life-giving) than friendship; there is nothing more terrible than the pain of loneliness.

The older I get, the more I realize how valuable that real, deep friendships really are. And if you think about the opposite, I mean, who would have ever imagined that solitary confinement (being alone and isolated) would be a form of punishment?

And here’s something that might surprise you: the former Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, states: “The most prevalent health issue in our country isn’t cancer, heart disease, or obesity; it’s isolation.”

An article in The New Republic entitled “The Lethality of Loneliness” wrote: “Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer—tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.

Studies show that people who have fewer friends die more readily from sickness, illness, and disease. The lack of friendships – and I mean, deep abiding friendships – is actually bad for your health.

Why is friendship important?

Before time began, when there was nothing else, there was friendship. From all eternity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (doctrine of the Trinity) were in community together – loving, serving, and delighting in one other. There was never a time when friendship did not exist.

Therefore, friendship is the foundation of all life. And that explains why loneliness is such a cosmic, universal experience.

Consider this: After God created Adam (the first human being, created perfect without sin) and placed in the Garden of Eden (a paradise free from pain, brokenness, and pollution), God looked and said, “This is not good!” Why? Because Adam was alone, and he was lonely.

Now don’t forget: there was no sin. Adam was not lonely because he was imperfect. Adam was lonely because he was perfect. Adam was lonely because he was made in the image of God. Therefore, he had to have someone to love, someone to serve, someone to talk to, and someone to share life with.

All of our other problems in life – fear, anger, greed, worry – all arise out of sin and imperfection in our humanity. Loneliness is the one problem you have because you are made in the image of God. So, loneliness, in a sense, is the one problem that arises out of our perfection.

Have you ever been lonely? Are you lonely? Do you know why you’re lonely? Not because there’s something wrong with you. The reason you’re lonely is because you are made in the image of God. In fact, the less you need friends, the less you are like God.

But in a modern, individualized culture like ours tends to put friendship in the back burner of their lives. Instead, we tend to put romantic, sexualized love above all others.

In celebrity magazines, it’s not “Who’s best friends with whom?” No! It’s “Who’s sleeping with whom?” Why would you care about “who is best friends with whom”? We want to know “who’s sleeping with whom”!

The one blockbuster film that has been made that is not primarily about romance or family, but about friendship is the The Lord of the Rings. If you’ve read the book, the romantic episodes aren't in the main text; they're in the appendices. But for Hollywood, the romance between Aragorn and Arwin becomes the center of the film because our culture isn’t turned on by friendship. But for Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings was about friendship.

Why do we put friendship in the backseat of our lives? Because friendship is not a biological or sociological necessity! It’s the only love that will not push itself on you. Therefore, in a busy culture like ours – where we’re working long hours and traveling all over the place, all the other relationships will push themselves on you.

You still have to see your family during the holiday. You can’t neglect your spouse or your kids. But friendship is the least invasive, the least demanding (if you will), and therefore takes incredible initiative and intentional investment.

I love what C.S Lewis says in his book, The Four Loves – “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy and art….It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

You see, friendship brings into your life something that parents, siblings, or lovers cannot bring. Friendship is uniquely different from all other kinds of love. Yet it is the most neglected of all the loves.

How do I develop friendship?

A friend will be there during good times and bad. It means “being there” when the life falls apart. Most people want to know you because you’re useful to them. Whether you admit it or not, virtually all of your relationships with the people in your life are based on the fact that they are useful to you. Some are useful for having a good time, some are useful for meeting other people, and some are useful for getting things done.

The people who only know you because you’re useful, when life begins to falls apart around you, your acquaintances and associates say: “Give me a call me if you need anything!”

But a friend is there with you. A friend has deliberately made you not a means to an end, but you are an end in yourself. They will “be there” even when it cost them something.

The huge redwood trees in California are the largest living things on earth and the tallest trees in the world. A number of them stand taller than the Stature of Liberty. You would think trees that large would have a tremendous root system reaching down hundreds of feet into the earth. But that is not the case. Redwoods have a very shallow root system. So how do they stand tall and strong when the storms come and the winds blow? Their roots are interlocked so that they support and sustain each other.

They care enough to listen – to the point that you can confide in them. They demonstrate incredible sensitivity to who you are and what you’re going through. They help carry your burden, and they guard your trust with incredible vigilance.

But there’s also a mutual “give and take” in the relationship. They open up their hearts to you as well. They share their hopes and dreams, and they entrust their fears and insecurities with you as well.

See, you might confide in a therapist, but they’re not going to open up their lives to you. On the other hand, all of you have people in your life who just emotionally vomit all over you, right? And the only “give and take” in the relationship is that you do all the giving and they do all the taking!

Proverb 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” For friendship to develop, there must be a sense of mutual transparency, nourishment, and care.


Why? Because a friend will not let you go to ruin. A true friend will tell you things that you need to hear, but that telling will be incredibly painful for them.

If you’re afraid to say what really needs to be said, then you’re not a friend. People often think, “I’m being loving by hiding the truth.” If you say, “I love that person too much to confront them,” what you really mean is that you love yourself too much to go through all the pain and discomfort of telling them.

Do you notice how hard this is? To be both caring and candid? To be candid means you tell the truth. But to be caring means that you are so watchful in what you and say and how you say it that the honest truth you are about to tell your friend creates pain for you!

This is why it’s so hard to be a friend! If caring, but not candid (you don’t say anything), you’re not a friend. If you’re candid, but not caring (you don’t know the person enough), then you’re not a friend. But to be a friend means constant pain because you have to always be caring and candid at the same time.

When you read the description of the perfect friend, one of two things happen:
(1) On one hand, there’s a feeling of longing. We live in a culture where our friends are taken away from us faster than we can forge them. Because we have greater mobility and longer work hours, we do not have the friends our hearts need.

(2) On the other hand, there’s feeling of inadequacy. When you measure yourself against this description of the perfect friend, we have to admit that one of reasons why we don’t have the friends our hearts need is because: we are not the friends that we should be.

The reason why you don’t have good friends is because you’re not a good friend. It’s hard! We’re afraid of being letting people in; we’re afraid of being vulnerable and sharing our hearts; we don’t want to get out of comfort zone and be inconvenienced!

This is where the good news of Jesus turns everything around for us: Before Jesus died, he was said to his disciples: “I no longer call you servants, now I call you friends.”

And even when we betrayed him, he still loved us and carried the burden of our sins on the cross for our sake. He will not only stand by you in good times and bad, he literally suffered hell on your behalf, so that you wouldn’t have to.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Friends, Jesus is the One that your heart’s been longing for!

Let’s go back to the question: “How do I make friends?” When you are liberated from the need to have friends because you have the ultimate friend in Jesus, then are you paradoxically able to develop godly friends.

When you have godly friends (they know you and they know your baggage, but they still love you) and they frame your joys and your sorrows in light of the good news of Jesus…sometimes your friend is going to put their arm around you and encourage you. And other times, they’re going to hit you with a 2x4 (metaphorically) because you’re doing (or about to do something) something really foolish! Godly friends care more about your holiness than your happiness.

Here’s the difference: A lot of my Christian friends will say, “I’m praying for you!” But my godly friends don’t just pray for me; they pray with me! “Let’s pray about this right now!”

Those kind of godly friendships…do you know what they are? For me, they are Jesus with skin-on in my world. I believe followers of Jesus should be the best friends ever. Why? Because we’re led by the best friend ever, our One True Friend.

If you don’t have those kinds of friendships, find them. Life is too short and too hard to not have friends like this. Start the journey. Maybe your first step is joining a Community Group!

Now before you think that’s some kind of silver bullet, let me tell you, it’s not. It’s hard work and it will take time… but it’s worth it!

In fact, if you join a Community Group simply because you’re desperate and want friends, here’s a warning from C.S. Lewis:
“That is why those pathetic people who simply ‘want friends’ can never make any. The very condition of having friends is that we should want something else besides friends. If the honest answer to the question 'Do you see the same truth?' is 'I see nothing and I don’t care about the truth, I only want a friend,' then no friendship can arise. There would be nothing for the friendship to be about, and friendship must be about something, even if it were only enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow travelers.”

If you DO have these kinds of godly friendships, then steward them well! Steward means cultivating something that has been given to you as a precious commodity.

Friendships are like a fire: it’s something that needs to be attended to, something that needs to be stoked in order to maximize its benefit. Don’t let the embers get too low and die down. Make room for friendship.
King (Friend of Mine)
Who spread out the heavens
Who can move the mountains
His name is Jesus
Friend of sinners
Friend of mine
Who gave away His glory
Left his throne to save me
His name is Jesus
Friend of sinners
Friend of mine
You are God above it all
Maker of my soul
Your name be praised forever
You have loved me from the start
Ruler of my heart
I surrender and confess
You are my King