Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor imprisoned by Hitler in WWII, corresponded often with a dear friend. In one letter from prison, Bonhoeffer called friendship “by far the rarest and most priceless treasure.” A man abandoned to solitary confinement would no doubt learn much about the value of friendship. Such was my experience during my battle with tongue cancer years ago. When the will of God leads through a hard place, friends become all the more important in the war against unbelief and the pursuit of joy in Him.
Unfortunately, a person’s trial can sometimes alienate friends. David writes in Psalm 38:11, “My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague.” Few things reveal more quickly the difference between deep versus superficial friendship than severe suffering. On other occasions, friends can come alongside in affliction with the best intentions, only to make matters worse rather than better. Job experienced this from his trio of “comforters” (Job 2:11). Eventually Job lamented, “My relatives have failed me, my close friends have forgotten me.” (19:14). Job’s friends failed so miserably that God rebuked them for it (42:7). Sometimes even the best of friends turn traitor. King David once cried out to the Lord, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). Who can measure the grief that comes from betrayal by an intimate confidant?
Risks notwithstanding, friends prove to be a means of grace to aid our faith. God commands the cultivation of such friends as insurance against succumbing to hardness of heart due to the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:12-13). Every believer needs friends in his corner to fight the good fight. Do you have such friends in your life? Thank God for them. Do you strive to be this kind of rare and priceless treasure to others? I hope so. If you struggle on one or both counts, there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24). His name is Jesus, the rarest and priceless treasure of all. He never fails His friends who love and trust Him!