God never intended for us to grow on our own. We are made to thrive in community—which means we were made to grow in the context of friendships.
Friendships shield us, strengthen us, and shape us in ways we could never achieve in isolation. And the Old Testament’s most famous friendship is a great example of how these three elements come together:
1. Friendship shields you.
Jonathan alerted David to danger that he was unaware of (in his case, the threat of death from King Saul). Jonathan saw things that David couldn’t. As Ecclesiastes says, together is better (4:9). And that’s partially because your friends often see danger in your life before you do.
Just think about it: The definition of a blind spot is something you can’t see because you are blind to it. Not something you are choosing to ignore. Something you don’t know that you don’t know. If you knew about it, it wouldn’t be a blind spot. Here’s the silver lining when it comes to blind spots: You can’t see it, but quite often your friends can.
Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (ESV). When you’re isolated, selfish heart deformities begin to grow unchecked and you become blinded to all of the weeds that have sprung up. David Powlison used to paraphrase the verse like this: “Things that grow in a secret garden always grow mutant.”
If no one is close enough to you to speak into your life, you’re in a dangerous spot, like a warrior walking into battle without any armor. Invite others in to shield you, calling out the good and the bad.
2. Friendship strengthens you.
Jonathan spoke courage into David’s life when David was ready to give up. He reminded David that God had great plans for his life, even when David’s world seemed to be collapsing around him.
God designed you so that your strength multiplies when you team up with a friend. I read recently that the strongest horse in the world can pull a sled weighing about 5,000 pounds. But if you harness two horses together, they can pull up to 14,000 pounds. Putting two horses together doesn’t double their strength; it multiplies it.
This is true of our hearts as well. Our strength multiplies when we pull together with a friend.
For me, knowing someone else is grieving my problem makes my soul feel so much lighter. It’s one of the greatest experiences of my life when someone looks at me and genuinely says, “You’ve got a friend in me.” Haven’t you felt that? Close friendships sustain and strengthen you.
3. Friendship shapes you.
After tragedy struck Saul and Jonathan’s house, David asked if there were any of Jonathan’s descendants he could show kindness to (2 Samuel 9). Jonathan had one living relative, a boy named Mephibosheth, who was crippled. David said, “Bring him to my table. He’ll never lack anything,” and for the rest of his life David treated him like a son. I don’t believe David would have shown that generosity of spirit if he had not first learned it, in part, from Jonathan.
Jonathan’s character shaped David’s. Proverbs says that will happen: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (13:20 ESV). Craig Groeschel says it this way: “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”
So if you want to change your future (and who doesn’t?), change your close friendships. One of the most important decisions you can make is who you walk closely with. This doesn’t mean you break off all your friendships and start over; it just means you intentionally allow a few into your close circle.
It’s a modern tragedy how little friendship is valued, especially in the church. Why would we cut ourselves off from all the ways God wants to shield us, strengthen us, and shape us? Because it’s awkward? Because it isn’t efficient?
Don’t let that be you. Invest in a friend today.
As Jonathan and David’s story teaches, friendships are important because they shield, strengthen, and shape you, just as God designed.