Proverbs 17:17 (NIV), “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Interrupting the grumblings and complaints that occupied much of the space in the room from the woman in the kitchen was the sound of the ringtone from the telephone that brought an eerie halt to all the tension. Though it was welcome in muting the harsh and selfish words that compounded the anxiety from the past few days of waiting and “what-ifs,” you would not have thought that after looking at the pale look on my girlfriend’s face as she gripped ever so tightly to my hand while answering the phone.
The voice on the other end of the line was rushed and sporadic between inquiring about the results of the biopsy and the reasoning for her absence. My girlfriend’s reaction to the caller’s tone and excuse for not fulfilling her promise of presence was received with tears and despair as her girlfriend spewed out her line of defense. She spent over five minutes elaborating how she only had a couple of minutes to talk because she was entering a meeting and was “so busy,” but managed to find a lot of time in making sure she wiped her guilt-ridden conscience clean by “calling” all the while solely vomiting her own frustrations and dilemmas!
My girlfriend was devastated. Why was this woman calling to begin with if she was “so busy”? Was it to relieve her guilty conscience or give her credible testimony when she met with other girlfriends in saying, “I helped her out.” She took five minutes to share how busy and stressed out she was, but she never even took one minute to find out how my girlfriend was holding up, and that hurt. Everyone was so busy spewing out their own frustrations about how this cancer would “demand” more from their already depleted lives, it was no wonder my girlfriend felt alone, abandoned, and rejected. This was about her, not them!
As I reached for my girlfriend’s hand to offer support, that blaring voice came out of the kitchen again, only louder. She approached the table with, “That wasn’t the doctor? All this waiting is going to kill me! I am so sick and tired of having to take care of everyone else! Who’s going to take care of me?” As she stormed off, flailing her arms about with an obnoxious sigh, acting as if she was the one being afflicted with the disease, I squeezed my girlfriend’s hand and shared that I loved her. I also shared that it would be an honor to be there with and for her no matter what. She was not an imposition or a burden to bear; I believed friends walk alongside of each other with cheerful hearts to receive the best medicine (Proverbs 17:22).
As she grasped for breath between sobs, I asked my girlfriend what she was really worried about. She confided through uncontrolled tears that she was afraid of going through this battle alone; that she did not want to impose more burden on others; and that the sense of guilt and shame transposed on her by family and friends made her feel unworthy to receive love and help. As a matter of fact, she admitted to pushing away those who loved her because of this fear of letting others in and seeing her deep need when she was always the one giving.
Prayer and Reflection:
What kind of friend are you? Are you like the bemoaning one that is filled with so much anger and bitterness from life, that the mere thought of helping others consumes and depletes you turning your gesture of love into venom; or how about the woman on the telephone who is full of guilt and pride trying to justify her absence by selfishly clearing her conscience through all the reasons and excuses of being “too busy” to slip others into the schedule and only feels “obligated” to check in because of the many ugly motives for why people do so, like gossip or staying in the know-all; or are you more like the woman that is present, spiritually, emotionally and physically, and able to let go of your own needs and desires to be a “true friend” who loves at all times by allowing God to manifest His love to others through your life?
Honestly, I have been all of these women! I have played a part in each of these characters. I know what it’s like to be overwhelmed with responsibilities while caring for others which surfaces underlying anger; I know what it’s like to carry the guilt of “not enough time” and/or the other person is not a priority but feel the need to be in the loop; I have also been the one who was in need and surrounded by people who loved me and meant well, but their lives were so consumed with guilt, anger, bitterness, jealously, etc., the way they loved came across as controlling and absent; and lastly, I’m trying to be the friend that Proverbs 17:17 (NIV) encourages: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” by being cheerful medicine (Proverbs 17:22).
Genuine friendship requires hard work, loving at “all times,” and that requires us to be the kind of true friend that the Bible also encourages (Proverbs 17:22). Let’s be the cheerful medicine that only time, touch, enthusiasm and encouragement can bring; that’s powerful pain relief that promotes only positive side effects!