Being a friend and having friends is so vital to our physical health and mental outlook. I totally believe this! I had friends go with me through the valley of severe mental illness. And I had some friends who could not understand my plight and turned away.
One article listed seven ways that friendship improves our health (7 Ways Friendships are Great for Your Health/ livescience.com/ Stephanie Pappa, 1/8/2016). It listed: 1) it extends our life, 2) it makes us generally healthier, 3) it keeps our minds sharp, 4) it influences us and our decisions, 5) it helps us through tough times, 6) it helps us cope with rejection, 7) it lasts a lifetime, giving opportunities for ongoing great experiences.
One study in the The Lancet in 1989 reported that women with breast cancer who were assigned to support groups during their treatment experienced better quality of life and lived longer. The value of friendships in health will likely never be fully appreciated.
I’ve often referred to my own lonely childhood. As a latchkey kid letting myself into an empty, low-income housing apartment, I felt intense loneliness. My younger sister was then attending a daycare and was picked up by my mom on her way home from work. During that season of life, I met my oldest and dearest Friend, Jesus. Through a simple vacation Bible school (VBS), I learned that Jesus loved me. I grasped hold of that hope for security and friendship.
One specific friendship memory from those years was a gentle, young, Bible-college student who would visit my home with some other members from his church. He must have been assigned the task of caring for my sister and I while the others chatted with my mom in the living room. He was so patient and gentle. He read us one story after another and never grew tired of our endless energy. He colored with us and taught us songs. As a child, I idolized his tender care for my sister and me. I have always honored him in my heart throughout the years. His humility to express true friendship because of his love for Jesus impacted me for all eternity.
Proverbs 27:17 speaks of the value of our earthly friends: “As iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” I value my current friends. The ones years ago that I lost during my mania years, I’ve forgiven. I know that they simply did not know how to help me. What they didn’t understand frightened them. The friends that remained loyal through that situation and the new ones that I’ve gained in Arizona are a joy to my soul! They sharpen me in so many facets of my life.
And how can I not honor the friendship of my Savior, Jesus. Jesus called me His friend in John 15:15, and in John 15:13, He declared: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus gave His life to secure my eternity, to bring me back into right relationship with my loving Father, and to draw me into His inner circle of friends.
Friendship is an incredible gift! I’m so thankful for all my friends and how they bolster and beautify my life.