The Lost Art of Friendship

The most intense period of my 2019 cancer and chemo journey lasted just six months. Although it was rough, I met many people at the cancer clinic who had it much worse. Some had been dealing with cancer for decades, facing the prospect of chemo or radiation for the rest of their lives. Others had been told they only had a few months to live.

One of the unexpected benefits of my cancer journey was finding out who my true friends were. My kids came from far away to help me during chemo: Molly from San Diego, Abbie from New Zealand, and Ben from Sacramento. My brother Bob and his wife Linda came from Ohio to spend a week with me. My dad’s widow Delores drove from Florida and was a huge help during one of the chemo weeks.

They rose to the occasion, and I’m incredibly grateful to each one of them.

And then there were my friends here in the Charlotte area. Some drove me to medical appointments. Others brought me food. A few sat with me during the chemo drips or provided me with lunch. One even brought bagels for all the infusion nurses – a kind gesture reflecting the love of Jesus.

Good friends are priceless. If you’re fortunate enough to have people like this in your life, you’re a wealthy person, no matter what hardship you are going through.

But during this period I also found out that some people weren’t the close friends I thought they were. When the battle was on, they surprisingly seemed AWOL. I’m sure they each had their reasons, but it was eye-opening.

I’m sympathetic to those who didn’t rally around me during cancer and chemo. They had their own lives, families, and jobs to attend to. And, like me, some people are very uncomfortable being around sickness and medical facilities. Although they want to be an encouragement, they struggle to know how to get involved or what to say to someone facing a life-threatening illness.

Greeting the Friends

I recently read a beautiful statement about friendship: “I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face. Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name” (3 John 1:14). So simple, yet so profound.

This Bible verse reminded me of a time when I spent six years attending a megachurch. I liked the worship and the preaching, but after all that time I still had no friends there. Instead of any “face to face” fellowship, each week I only encountered the back of someone’s head in the row in front of me. People were generally friendly enough, but there was no one I could greet “by name.” And, without any personal relationships, we certainly couldn’t bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

I eventually concluded that I wanted a church life that included friends. I’m basically an introvert, so for a while I’d been willing to forego this feature of healthy church involvement. But when you’re going through a health crisis or some other storm of life, you realize that good friends are not just nice to have — they’re indispensable.

I’ve always been amazed by the Mark 2:1-12 story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man. The miracle happened after the man’s four friends carried him through town, hoisted him upon the roof of the house where Jesus was teaching, then dug a hole in the roof so they could lower their friend to the Master’s feet.

Do you have any friends like that? Friends willing to go to great trouble to bring you to a place where you can be healed?

More Than Facebook Friends

I hate to break it to you, but your Facebook friends are unlikely to come to your aid when you’re going through a tough time. You need relationships much deeper than that. If given the choice, you should gladly be willing to trade hundreds or even thousands of Facebook friends for just one or two genuine comrades.

But unless you’ve been investing in quality friendships when times are good, you can’t really complain if no one comes to your aid when the storm comes. Relationships are like deposits in a bank account – you can’t expect to withdraw if you’ve never put anything into the account.

King Solomon said it this way: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). You see, it’s only during adversity when you discover who your true friends are. Your fair-weather friends quickly fall away, leaving only a few friends who “love at all times.”

If you don’t presently have any friends like this, I encourage you to make a decision today to start investing in others. Take time to BE a true friend, and soon you will HAVE true friends. Yes, friendship is a lost art these days, but you and I can start a counterrevolution to bring it back!