By Shelly Esser
There is a large framed photo at my parents' house that is the depiction of genuine friendship. The photo, given to my dad as a gift, is from his friend Mac. The photo shows my dad running alongside Mac, pacing him in a race so he can qualify for the Boston Marathon. (For those of you who don’t know, a marathon is 26 miles and 385 yards!) At the bottom of the photo are the words, “No One Could Have a Better Friend.”
What a model of friendship! I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people who would run a marathon to help a friend. I have had the privilege of growing up in the kind of home where my parents modeled this kind of friendship to both their family and friends. They have come alongside others no matter the cost or sacrifice. Theirs has been an example that goes the distance. That is what true friendship is all about. And what a gift to have that kind of a friend.
Someone once said, “We pace ourselves according to who we run beside.” Any experienced marathoner will attest to that. To run alongside someone of the same goal and purpose energizes you and gives you what you need to finish the race and run well. C.S. Lewis said, “True friends don’t spend time gazing into each other’s eyes. They show great tenderness toward each other, but they face in the same direction -- toward common projects, goals -- above all, toward a common Lord.” They point us to Christ.
Much of my spiritual growth has resulted as friends have come alongside me like my dad did for Mac. They have helped me keep on a steady spiritual pace through this race called life, and they have many times kept me from dropping out of the race altogether. When I have wanted to quit or give up, they have been there at just that moment to cheer me on and remind me to keep my eyes on Christ.
A Friend to Carry the Burdens
I’ll never forget the day Jennifer walked into my life. She was a new pastor’s wife in town whom I met at a banquet. I invited her over to my house for lunch, never imagining how God would use our budding friendship to pace me through some very dark days. She was able to understand my struggles and challenges in a way very few could. She saw my soul. She listened. She carried my burden and stood with me in prayer. She ministered words of grace and, because she shared my burden, I was strengthened. When I didn’t think I could make it, she assured me that I could. She regularly reminded me that God was big enough to see me through this difficulty. She helped me regain perspective. Jennifer epitomized what we are instructed to do in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” With Jennifer running alongside me, I felt my hope renewed and my desire to stay in the race return. “No One Could Have a Better Friend.”
God uses friends like Jennifer to deepen us spiritually. To help us take the necessary spiritual steps to move forward instead of backwards in our lives. These kinds of friendships nourish our passion both for life and for God. I have become more like Christ, because Jennifer came alongside me and helped me run a better race.
If we are going to finish well in our lives we cannot go it alone. God created us with a huge need for friendships. To find another woman whom we can let walk around our heart is truly a treasure. Friends that come alongside us are part of God’s design to help us along our spiritual course. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says it best:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one
falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one
to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how
can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend
themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
A Friend Who Supports
I literally fell down a couple of years ago when my back went out. It was excruciatingly painful. I couldn’t move for about three days and could only move minimally for several weeks. Every step hurt. I didn’t only need someone to come alongside me, I needed someone to carry me! Helen, as she always does, rose to the occasion. We have been friends for the last 13 years, and throughout Helen has run alongside me through the ups and downs of life, and in this case, literally helped me up. During that difficult time, she arranged meals for our family, and most touching, her smiling face greeted me every day for two weeks to help me into her car to drive me to the doctor for treatment. She put slippers on my feet, changed the sheets on my bed, helped me limp to the bathroom, and ministered the love of Christ to me. I felt humiliated to be so needy, yet so grateful to have been blessed with that kind of friendship. “No One Could Have a Better Friend.”
We all need these kinds of friends in our lives -- friends who will go the distance with us. A friend who will come alongside us so we will be successful in the spiritual race God has called us to. Someone who helps us run a little faster and better race than if we’d run alone. A heart friend who points our soul in the only direction that enables us to finish strong - Jesus Christ. Who is running alongside you? Cherish the gift of that friendship. “No One Could Have a Better Friend.”