Meeting people is easy. Making friends is hard. Keeping friendships alive is even harder. Losing friends can be heartbreaking. How do we respond? This is something I am still trying to figure out...
I have never been good at making friends. I make acquaintances well and my profession and personality lead to me knowing many people and being known by many more. In spite of this, finding a person to whom I can open up, someone who I know will be there for me in a pinch, has been much more difficult. For this reason the few close friends I have are extremely important to me. It is also why losing a friend is so difficult.
I fear I might have lost a friend in the last year. Over the last few years a casual friendship grew into one I would call close. Close enough to where he was my only last minute friend, the one I could call the same day and ask, “Free for lunch?”
We were different in many ways, but seemed to share many of the same struggles and goals. We have each battled anxiety disorder and we share a common commitment to family and faith. As a result we have been able to talk about life and its challenges in a context we both understand. My family has loved him as well. They have enjoyed his stories and quirky sense of humor.
I use the past tense because all of that seemed to disappear. Without telling me why, he simply quit. He quit returning phone calls, answering emails and responding to Facebook messages. It was as if he had simply disappeared from my life. One day he was there, the next day he wasn’t. I had no idea what was going on.
Later on I learned that he had failed to keep an important promise. It seems that rather than tell me what was happening and working things out he decided to walk away. Anxiety and embarrassment were too much for him to deal with, so he didn’t deal with them.
Knowing that his anxiety disorder is contributing to his problems doesn’t soften the blow all that much. It hurts.
The saddest part of this is that if he had just told me, if he had just been honest, we could have figured it out. Friendship and trust mean so much more to me than a single mistake. I was sure he knew this about me, but perhaps he didn’t, or couldn't. I am left wondering how a friend could act in such a way. I thought friends were supposed to be there for you no matter what.
And then I remember Simon Peter, Jesus’ most vocal friend and follower. Peter was the one who boldly proclaimed to Jesus that if it came to it, he would willingly die at his Master’s side. And then, when it came to the point where he might actually have to die at Jesus’ side, he ran. He fled from Jesus’ side and watched from afar while Jesus was crucified, all the while denying to anyone who asked even knowing Jesus at all.
What happened to Peter? Life happened. Fear happened. Shame happened. But that is not all that happened. A few weeks later, when Peter met Jesus again after the resurrection on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, grace, forgiveness and restoration happened as well. Peter was given another chance to prove himself, another chance to be the friend he wanted to be. Just a few months later Peter was hauled before the same Jewish leaders that had condemned Jesus to death. This time, Peter stood firm and proved to be the friend he had promised to be.
I am also reminded of the God I serve and of the people he saves. We are all broken, all damaged and all sinful. We all mess up, let others down and fail to meet expectations and hopes. But we serve a God of resurrection, a God who can take death and bring life. I have seen him restore health, life and relationships so many times, I know he can do it again.
I do not know what the future holds for my friend and I, but I do know that wherever God is, there is hope. Here’s to hoping that our futures will be filled with true, faithful and enduring friendships, and that I can be the type of friend others can rely on.
So how do I respond? I remember the promise from Proverbs 18:24- "there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." I have a God who loves me and a Savior who will never let me go. I mourn the loss and feel the pain, but cling to the hope found in the One who will never leave me or forsake me. I turn my focus upward.
If you like this post, please click on a link below and share it with others. If you would like to hear more about the story of Peter, go to the Sermons page and listen to the message titled Recovery from John 21. As always, your questions and comments are welcomed.