We are made for relationships. A godly friendship can change everything. There is a peculiar math to friendship: shared joys are doubled, and shared sorrows are cut in half.
Friendship is a central theme of Jesus’ life and teaching. He tells us to encourage each other: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12–13).
In fact, loving one another is the evidence of our identity as disciples: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35)
When the world beats you down, Jesus has a cure for that: godly friends. When Jesus came to the tomb of his friend, Lazarus, he was deeply moved. After he had the stone that sealed the tomb taken away, Jesus prayed. And after he prayed, “Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (John 11:43–44).
Jesus brought Lazarus back to life, but when Lazarus came out of the tomb, he was still bound in grave clothes. Instead of removing them himself—which he could have easily done, Jesus told the other friends of Lazarus, “You help him take off the grave clothes and finish setting him free.”
The Lazarus story is a real story about a real man. But it is also a metaphor for a man who has been beaten down by the world. The juggernaut has rolled over him and crushed his dreams, hopes, and relationships. He is overwhelmed. Withdrawn. Isolated. Alone. Spiritually dead.
Or perhaps worse, he is a man who has accepted his situation.
The only real hope for such a man is that Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners, will be his friend and raise him from the dead and arrange for some friends to remove his grave clothes.
Friends are not God’s backup plan. Friends are God’s plan A. Jesus will resurrect a man from the dead, but then he gives the joy, privilege, and responsibility of fully setting the man free to his friends.
Clark Miller, one of the regional directors at our ministry, Man in the Mirror, was meeting with a small group of men. During a weekly meeting to discuss destructive behaviors, he divided them into groups of three or four men and encouraged them to open up about the baggage holding them back. “What’s the thing that’s been eating you up that you haven’t been able to share with a real friend? We’ve been together as a group for a long time, so let’s open up with each other a little bit.” Or, in so many words, help take off each other’s grave clothes.
An older man who never said much opened up for the very first time. He said, “My younger sister was raped when she was only five years old.” He went on to explain that as her older brother, he had always in some ways felt responsible for what happened. He concluded, “This is the first time in 65 years I have ever talked about it.”
Suddenly, something lifted. The grave clothes came off. He was set free because the other brothers were kind and really cared. Clark said, “Since that meeting his entire persona changed. He has been dramatically freed, and he has been touched. He has been able to talk through this in a way that has brought healing.”
We’ve already established that the world is going to beat you down. The only question is whether you will face that alone.