As a father of young kids, I’ve watched more than my fair share of Disney Pixar movies. My daughter’s first favorite was Finding Nemo, then we moved on to The Lion King, and now we’ve landed on The Little Mermaid as the current movie du jour. However, through all of these, Toy Story 3 has remained a go-to, not just for my girls, but also my own viewing pleasure.
One of the overarching themes in all of the Toy Story movies is that of friendship. A friendship that binds through good times and the bad times. I won’t ruin the ending of the trilogy by giving away everything, but let’s just say for those who have seen it…that final scene in Toy Story 3 with all of the toys headed toward imminent destruction hand-in-hand is positively moving.
As I think about biblical, Christ-centered counseling I can’t help but hope and pray for similar friendships and relationships to develop for those I counsel and care for. Unfortunately, many of those who come in for counseling are in desperate need and have no serious, biblical friendships. One man in a moment of vulnerable honesty looked at me with tears in his eyes, and said, “I don’t even know how to get a friend. Where do I even start?”
The Proverbs are a great place to start. They provide a rich portrait of biblical friendship. Over the balance of the book, four distinct qualities of biblical friendship come to the forefront: constancy, carefulness, candor, and counsel.
- Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
- Proverbs 18:24b: “But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
C.S. Lewis describes friendship as constancy in his book, The Four Loves. Biblical friendship is faithful, consistent, and constant. That’s why Solomon says that friends can be even better than an actual biological brother. In a very transient society where we are ever mobile and moving, the ideal of constancy can be difficult. It takes pursuit and intentionality on our behalf. It means redeeming the time we do have with our friends.
When a person comes to you hurting and struggling, isn’t one of the most comforting things you can do as a counselor is to be present with them? Mediating the presence of the Holy Spirit to them, you minister the comfort and presence of the Wonderful Counselor.
- Proverbs 25:20: “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.”
- Proverbs 27:14: “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.”
We are all human, and sometimes we can be less than empathetic. Proverbs says that a biblical friend will be careful and considerate. As a man walking wisely, he will seek to measure his words, be thoughtful of his presence and examine the timing of his counsel.
A true friend would never rip off a blanket from their friend on a cold day. Tim Keller in his sermon on friendship says that an uncareful friend is one who does not know the inner topography of the heart. True biblical friendship walks wisely and carefully with their friends.
- Proverbs 27:5-6: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”
Of the four, this is possibly the most difficult to practice. The idea of loving and biblical candor (confrontation) is something that seems so difficult and overwhelming that many in the church pass this mark of friendship off to someone else.
But the Proverbs are so helpful here. Solomon says something incredibly counter-intuitive. He says that open rebuke is better than hidden love. It’s better to have faithful wounds than to be kissed profusely by an enemy. I wonder how many of our counselees and even our own hearts enjoy and crave deceitful kisses more than we desire faithful, wounding rebuke?
- Proverbs 15:22: “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”
- Proverbs 27:9: “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.”
The final mark of a wise, biblical friend is that he gives and receives wise counsel. As Paul Tripp writes in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, we were all designed to be counsel givers and receivers. That’s how God wired us. As a counselor, I’m always filled with joy when my counselees come back and share how they’re taking what they’re learning in counseling and using it in their everyday relationships.
Friendship is such an important topic not only in the Proverbs, but in the entire Bible as well. As we think of this profile of a friend, we can find it crushing and overwhelming. Who can be this friend who is constant, careful, full of candor and counsel? The answer is Jesus Christ!
The Apostle John writes in John 15:15, “No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends…” Jesus is the ultimate Friend, and He calls us to Himself as friends. You and I can be the type of friend the Proverbs calls us to because we ourselves are in friendship and relationship with Christ. What a friend we have in Jesus!
Just for Conversation
Are you helping your counselees transition from formal counseling to life-on-life friendships and relationships? How do you help your counselee build strong, biblical friendships?
How are you being a “4C” friend?