“A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.”
~Proverbs 17: 17
A funny thing happens when you go through long seasons of suffering. Some people you think are friends suddenly disappear while others become harsh and cruel every time you’re in pain, as though they need you to fake happiness in order for them to be okay. A lot of people you lean on for support will either disappear altogether or bite you in return. Those people both create new wounds and infinitely deepen the original one. But then, miraculously, some people show up who you never imagined would care at all and love you in ways you don’t expect.
Long seasons of suffering do tend to weed out the people in your life who don’t really care. It exposes their motivations for being in your life and sometimes those are really selfish. I’ve learned that in seasons of pain and suffering, true friends will rise to the occasion, stand next to you, and fight for you no matter what, but it isn’t always the ones you expect to do so. Suffering doesn’t have a lot of upsides, but proving who your friends are (and aren’t) is one of them.
The last few months have brought me more than one surprise as people who called me “friend” suddenly disappeared into thin air or became evasive and unavailable at every turn. Others who I didn’t think had a reason to care, suddenly stepped in and showed more love than people I thought were closer friends. The sifting process is still taking me by surprise and forcing me to “let go” of people I believed were friends, and open myself up to people I never would have seen before.
One effect of going through suffering is no longer being able to relate to what now seem such ridiculous and petty “problems.” Though for legitimate pain or sufferings, my heart is far softer and more compassionate than ever before. But for those whose life feels entirely unjust and unfair simply because they had to wait in line for 30 seconds longer than normal, or didn’t get to see their favorite band play for the 18th time…I have a very distinct reaction of disgust. Listening to the endless complaints from my own entitled generation has recently become my new definition of hell. But for the broken, for the hurting, and for the hearts that have really been wrecked…those are the people whose companionship I seek.
It isn’t easy, but I’m realizing that I’d rather have one true friend (or none at all) than a million fake, shallow, or entitled ones. I’d rather live in solitude and silence than have to listen to the insufferable commentary of people who think they have all the answers, or whose every minor discomfort is viewed as “suffering”. I think what I’ve learned the most over the last year is to stop assuming who my friends are and to always be open to change. It doesn’t seem to take much the relationships in my life to completely rearrange, so it’s best not to grow too attached to where they currently stand.
Despite the ever-shifting sands of friendships, I do have a constant and steady friend in Jesus. Thick or thin, high or low, rain or shine – He is and has always been my rock in every storm. He is the one in whom I seek comfort, counsel, guidance, and restoration.
“But they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
Lord, give me strength. Bring to me the broken ones in need of your comfort and love and give me the wisdom and courage to love them well. Amen.