~A Review of Side By Side: Walking With Others In Wisdom and Love By Edward Welch
I’m a child of the 90’s, anyone else? A little theme song from ‘Friends’ seems appropriate for this post ...”I’ll be there for you, when the rain starts to pour, I’ll be there for you, like I’ve been there before, I’ll be there for you, cause you’re there for me too...”
They are the best.
They can be old friends, new friends, work friends. Often they are our family. Some friends live across the street, others in the next town. Then there’s those that cross the prairies to the mountains, or span the width of the oceans, where we only share a screen, or typed messages.
Our friends come in all varieties and are so special to us - for the memories that unite us, the bonds we have forged.
They are the ones who listen to my drama, who remind me there is always another perspective to see; they model for me what it looks like not to be addicted to caffeine, to be godly moms for their kids, to be creative, stewarding the gifts God has given them, shining His light in the communities around them.
Friends are the ones who know me well enough to see when my pride is becoming my fall. When my tongue speaks where it shouldn’t, they remind me. When I’m struggling and trying to find my way through a difficult season, they hold me up in prayer and stand strongly beside me.
Through the last few years, my family has needed their help, and a lot of it. Serving the Lord overseas, transitioning back to life in Canada, walking through a difficult season with a very sick child, we have been in much need of prayer and support, and because of it, we have come through the other side of a season with a deeper faith and love.
We’ve been so grateful. We’ve seen this blessing in our lives, and recognize that it’s not always the case.
Relationships are hard, and even in communities of believers we can find it hard to connect and develop those friendships. Yet it is so needed.
And so, in reading Ed Welch’s book, “Side by Side: Walking Alongside Others In Wisdom and Love,” I was reminded that the journey of friendship begins with us.
And here’s two reasons why.
1. We are both needy and needed.
“Those who help best are the ones who both need help and give help. A healthy community is dependent on all of us being both.”
We desire to help others, to serve and do good things. This comes out of being filled with the Gospel, and outpouring it into the lives of others; it’s the power of the Gospel, the work of the Holy Spirit in our life.
The danger is our pride, which lies in wait for us, to pounce on those good works, and entice us to feel greater than, or self-sufficient. It’s an easy battle to lose if we aren’t paying attention.
As our own sin entangles us, we come to recognize how much we need God’s grace and forgiveness in our own lives; the desperate condition of our own souls and the dependence we have on God’s redeeming work in us through the Gospel.
“Suffering is the trouble that comes at us. Sin is the trouble that comes out of us”
We confess our sins, we repent and walk in obedience, by the help of the Holy Spirit. We learn to be honest with the neediness of our own souls and the reality of sin in our life.
The glory in our neediness is that we practice depending on the One who gives us life and breath; our posture becomes one of humility. This is the force beneath our service to others, we need the Gospel - and others need the Gospel.
The grace of God flows to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; we receive forgiveness and newness of life. Our lives are evidence of His redeeming work in us. We become equipped to love others, through our own experience of His grace, and as we are filled with His love.
We are needy. We learn dependence. God is glorified.
2. Friendships begin by reaching out.
A relationship can’t start without a beginning.
This is by far the hardest part.
We feel shy, ashamed or uncertain. We are distracted by what is around us. We may not see the importance of reaching out to the person beside us.
I am guilty of all of it too. Relationships don’t come easily for me. Being introverted means there’s an excuse not to be vulnerable, not to make an effort. But that’s all it is, an excuse.
When we belong to communities of faith, our brothers and sisters in Christ need friendship, and so do we. The storms of life don’t wait for an invitation, they just come.
Who will surround us in our time of need? Will we be ready to be that support for someone else in their deepest valleys?
Relationship takes courage and compassion. Relationship means being aware of who is around us. Relationship means being intentional.
“The better you know other people, the more you enjoy and appreciate them - that is, the more you love them. And the more you love them, the more you will be invited into their lives during hardships.”
The opportunities you will have to share in life with others provides opportunity to encourage during difficult times, to share the Gospel with those who need it, and to admonish when we are looking away. Our communities of faith need strong, healthy relationships, to keep us deepening our faith, and into the One who relates with us.
And it begins with us.
Who have been your friends in time of need? If you look around your fellowship of believers, how can you be intentional in reaching out this week?
And if you want more practical advice, pick up “Side By Side: Walking With Others in Wisdom and Love” By Edward Welch