The Heartfelt Counsel of a Friend

Friends accept us not as we appear but as we can truly be. They hold us up to our better selves in a way that we feel not pulled but as though we are being drawn out gracefully from within.

Arthur Dobrin

Today I sat on the beach with my dear friend, Avonnia. We’ve known each other for 11 years. We worked together for a couple of years, lost touch for a few years, and then rekindled our friendship by the seaside. Avonnia is a gentle soul, one who loves Jesus with all her heart. It was such a joy today to visit with her. We have a standing date each February and today was especially sweet.

The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” … It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision – it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.

CS Lewis, The Four Loves

As Avonnia and I talked, I was reminded of the blessings of friendship. Friendship is more than getting along, common interests, or similar networks of relationships. Instead friends take personal character seriously, inspiring each other to be better in all ways, in action, even in thought! I was definitely the beneficiary of inspiration as Avonnia and I caught up discussing this past year. Her heart for truth, for the marginalized, for the spiritual growth of those blessed with privilege pointed me to the gospel. I’m so thankful!

How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along! It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, Flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes. It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life.

Psalm 133:1-3 MSG

Exhortation is a blessing in friendship. A simple example is the friend who will tell you that you have spinach between your teeth. Surprising how many people will let you walk around with a greenish smile, dragging a piece of toilet paper with your shoe, your skirt hiked up in the back. A true friend will stop you, point out the error, smiling graciously.

Exhortation in friendship is the blessing of boundaries. If I begin to share confidential information that borders on gossip, a true friend will stop me, ask gently if the sharing of the “juicy” bit is really necessary, helpful, edifying. If I speak callously of someone who is caught up in conspiracy theories, a friend will remind me that those who are blinded need our prayer.

Exhortation is also the blessing of the gospel, pointing one another to the truth. We remind our friends of the joy of our salvation, the joy found in leaning hard into our relationship with Jesus. We speak scripture to one another, sharing what God is teaching us, encouraging one another to feast on the Word.

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.

Proverbs 27:9

Exhortation is not about being “holier than thou,” not about being boastful or bossy. Instead, the friend with the gift of exhortation realizes how easily she could also be sucked in by the same errors and desires to have a friend with such a gift in her own life. Friends pursue peace and building up one another with gentleness and humility.

My spiritual brothers and sisters, if one of our faithful has fallen into a trap and is snared by sin, don’t stand idle and watch his demise.
Gently restore him, being careful not to step into your own snare.

Galatians 6:1 VOICE

Friendship is both a common grace and special grace. Obviously those who don’t have a relationship with God can be good friends. But I have to believe that those who share in the blessings of forgiveness and redemption experience a depth of friendship not known by the world. Friends who share life in Christ also share the greatest of friendships – that friendship we have with Jesus himself.

Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high.
My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God;
on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.

Job 16:19-21

What a blessing it was to sit today with a dear friend, toes in the sand, enjoying the beauty of the dolphins as they swam by, marveling at the grace of our Lord, and His goodness to us!

With the faith and love God’s given
Springing from the hope we know
We will pray the joy you’ll live in
Is the strength that now you show
But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end

Michael W Smith
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