What does it mean to have friendship with God? Have you ever experienced friendship with God? If not, would you desire that? The answer probably depends on your perceptions and beliefs about God, just like what draws or repels us about having relationships with others. We are drawn by good experiences, perceptions and beliefs about someone and repelled by negative ones.
There is a song: “Friend of God” by Phillips, Craig & Dean describing a close relationship we can have with God that is “amazing!”. The lyrics describe the unconditional love God has for us and what we can experience in a close relationship with God: Almighty God thinks of us; God hears and answers when we call.
Who is your closest friend? How would you describe your relationship with your closest friend or any relationship you would label a close friendship? For some their closest friend is a parent, sibling or other family member. Most close friendships have developed over a long period of many years and yet close friendships can develop in much less time given the person’s character and behavior, the frequency of contact, and circumstances around that relationship. A relationship with God develops in similar ways. If we can experience God as a parent, taking care of us, loving us unconditionally with forgiveness for our mistakes, being always ready to support and comfort us when needed, the relationship deepens.
Most close friends exhibit love and support for each other although one person can be more physically or emotionally supportive given the greater needs of the other person, like a child that depends on a parent That love develops through continuing experiences with each other where there is trust, acceptance, forbearance, empathy, dependability, commitment and other qualities exhibited in their relationship. Chapter 13 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians describes many qualities of love. Unconditional love given to another no matter the other’s weaknesses and faults, like that given by man’s best friend, the dog, is the most comforting and fulfilling experience.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8 AMP): “Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked nor overly sensitive and easily angered; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth when right and truth prevail. Love bears all things regardless of what comes, believes all things looking for the best in each one, hopes all things remaining steadfast during difficult times, endures all things without weakening. Love never fails; it never fades nor ends.” Have you experienced this kind of love? I have found some of these qualities with different people at different levels, but with God I experience all of these qualities consistently in the greatest capacity no matter how well I do or do not do what might be considered ‘good’. Looking back to times when I turned away from God, I believe God still displayed this love to me but I did not perceive it given I did not draw close enough in relationship with God to experience it.
Close friendships develop with people whose character and behavior is attractive or admirable to us. To grow a friendship with anyone we need to come to know a person through communication and many experiences of the other person that contrast to the superficial qualities of other types of relationships. Our personal experiences of another person can reveal the existence or lack of love or other qualities we desire in friendship. It is the same relating to God. We discover God’s character and behavior through a real personal relationship of 2-way communication and experiencing God responding to us and others throughout history.
We can discover God’s character demonstrated in reading through the many books of the Bible, not just small sections, as the patterns of God’s behavior become more apparent. Jesus said he demonstrated the character of God. (John 14:8-9 AMP) Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and then we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time, and you do not know Me yet, Philip, nor recognize clearly who I am? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father (God).” Reading about Jesus in the Bible can help us know God better.
In addition to reading about God, we can experience God’s behavior towards us individually. Over decades I sought, researched, discovered and practiced many spiritual methods that gave me some wisdom, peace and even grew my perceived relationship with God and helped me get through various difficulties, but I was never changed at a continuing deeper level and, more importantly, my trust in God did not improve nor did I really experience my relationship with God beyond head knowledge. Only in experiencing God through the revelation and experience I received by entering into conversation and active response through bible study and personal prayer was I able to experience my relationship with God in a way that was more real and as tangible as any other relationship I had ever had, even without the benefit of senses like sight, sound and touch.
The sensations and experiences in our spirit, soul and in some cases vibrations felt in the body can be even more powerful than other sensual experiences of the body. As I have found God to be responsive, loving, forgiving, dependable, generous, even self-sacrificing in Christ’s behavior, I am drawn to be closer and more trusting. The more I trust and engage with God, the more I experience, the more I am drawn closer. It is really a mystery, as Paul describes in his writings as do other spiritual writers. One can only experience this first hand by entering into this kind of relationship with God, not by listening to someone else’s experience except as a guide to seek this kind of relationship individually and have these experiences first hand for ourselves.
Close friendships require some continuing, if not frequent, contact to maintain the intimacy and connection. None of my close relationships stayed as close given increased geographical distance or intervening circumstances preventing contact over long periods. Similarly with God, I find daily quality time with God and God’s Word, the Bible, maintains and strengthens the relationship, grows intimacy and builds knowledge I have about God, myself, the world and others. In the last few years, I lost most of my close friendships through geographical relocations, deaths, Alzheimer’s disease in a close friend, family circumstances demanding most of my time, and chronic illness keeping me homebound, isolated and immobile. As my friendships and family disappeared, I turned to God spending more time in Bible Study and close communication with God, and, as a result, I experienced a growing intimacy with God,. Now I can truly consider God as my closest friend and trusted parent.
Often our closest friendships develop through shared crisis and hardships suffered together. The crisis and hardships I have endured have drawn me closer to God and I discover God seems closer to me at those times. I have come to believe God is always close, but it is myself who moves closer to experience the intimacy and blessings of a close intimate relationship with God, providing all I need at all times, planned by God before I need it. The closer I am to God, the sooner I find what I need in amazing ways by being available to receive the guidance to lead me along that best plan.
And what about God’s attitude toward us? What would precipitate God calling us a close friend? The New Testament letter of James mentions that Abraham “was called the friend of God” and attributes it to his faith in God (James 2:23) and not being a “friend of the world.” (James 4:4). To have faith in God means to trust God. God is worthy of our trust but we need to experience why that is true for our trust to grow just like we grow to trust anyone or anything else. And being a friend of the world is trusting the world, or anything in it, more than we trust God, or, choosing what the world offers over choosing God. Many trust God but still fear losing a partner, money, health, career or anything else we think we cannot live or be ‘happy’ without. For me I discovered that I was trusting in other people, myself or things more than I trusted God to have a good plan for my life. Through many experiences over time given many difficulties I have learned that God can and will provide all we need without us having to cling to anything or any person, or our own inclinations more tightly than we cling to God. As God told Jeremiah, another so called friend of God, in a most beautiful section of the Bible, (Jeremiah 29:11-13 AMP) “I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear your voice and I will listen to you. Then with a deep longing you will seek Me and require Me as a vital necessity and you will find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.'” This sounds like the best friendship of all time that we can ever have and it is available for all if we want it.
I challenge you to take steps towards seeking a closer relationship with God. Ask God to be your friend. Listen for guidance to lead you to take certain steps. Pay attention to inner desires that arise to do things. Respond with action and see what happens. Take some time each day to connect with God as you feel drawn. Even 20-30 minutes a day in prayer, bible study and reading the Bible can make a difference. That is where I started. There is so much available today to help you do the same thing. If you ask Jesus into your life, you will have the Holy Spirit to guide and teach you. (John 14:26 AMP) “The Helper, Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf, He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you. ”
If you are already on that journey, I encourage you to continue despite setbacks since often when we are on that journey the enemy of our souls tries to distract and discourage us, but God is always faithful to draw us back. After many stops and starts, distractions and disappointments, I had a growing experience and desire for an intimate relationship with God that I have discovered is more real and wonderful than I could ever imagine. As Jesus said more than once: (John 10:27-29 AMP) “The sheep that are My own hear My voice and listen to Me; I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they will never, ever by any means perish; and no one will ever snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater and mightier than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. ”
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