Friendship and Joy in God

I am a highly relational person.  In most personality studies, my traits lean me toward quiet influence and steady support for those around me.  I enjoy collaborating with people, and most of all, I love the close relationships I have in my life.  Carol, my wife of 19 years and truly my best friend, is one such example.  I have known her now for 26 years (since high school), enjoying the gift of a friendship that grows stronger each day.  And this has brought me great joy.

I also have enjoyed several very close friendships with some key men in my life.  These are vital friendships in my journey of faith.  These men have seen me through some difficult challenges in my life, they have shared their lives with me, and I have enjoyed an amazing fellowship with these men.  What is so incredible to me is how God brought them to me from so many different places: church (both current and previous), previous employment, and even counseling.  And these friendships have brought me great joy.

As I sit in the dark in our room here at Ridgecrest, NC, with my family still sleeping, I am also reminded of the gift my children have been to me.  My two older boys (young men, really) are finishing up their fourth year at a two-week camp for boys here in the mountains near Asheville, NC.  We will be picking them up in a few hours.  And I have missed them.  Yes, I am their father.  Yes, that is not always easy.  But I would never trade it for the world.  And as they grow, I know that our relationship will change to more of a friendship.  And this entire process has brought me great joy.

So, as I began reading during my quiet time this morning, my eyes (and my heart) were drawn to these amazing words in Romans 5:10-11:

10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (emphasis mine)

So often in the church, the message we hear sounds a little more like we’re still enemies with God, but He will tolerate us because of Jesus.  But we better be on our best behavior or He may decide to send us off after all.

I for one do not do well under that kind of message.  Being highly relational, I am very sensitive to my perception of what people around me think of me.  So, when my mind begins to process my relationship with Jesus the same way, I struggle in my faith.

This passage says that through Christ and His saving work, I am now friends with God.  This is astounding.  Friends hang together.  Friends share their deepest secrets.  Friends work through hard things.  Friends are there for each other when they need them most.  And friends… real friends… last a long time.

Friendship with God means I can trust whatever process God has for me at any moment of my life.  Friendship with God means I can unequivocally trust Him with my whole heart.  And friendship with God leads me to rejoice in the beautiful life He has given me.  I can have confident hope in my salvation.  I can have utter joy.

So, today, I choose joy.  I realize a few days after the boys come home and school begins next week, life will return to normal.  It will be hard.  We’ll get mad at each other over various meaningless things.  They’ll assert their independence in ways very frustrating to me.  And I’ll be ready for them to go back to camp long before they do again next year.  But in the end, I will rejoice in my God and all He has done, and I will choose joy in the midst of these beautiful relationships God has given me.

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