This is shared with us by permission of Mary Rabe. Thank you Mary for helping us look at the different and essential roles our friends play in our lives!
I have been blessed throughout my life with many sweet friendships, and have noticed through the years that there seem to be a few different “kinds” of friends, and different blessings and growth that each one provides. I believe that friendship is something that God designed and planned not only to bring joy and fun to our lives, but also to help us grow and mature into the people He designed us to be. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” God gave us all kinds of relationships and fellowship in order to “sharpen” us and help us to grow, and I think that He has also designed each of us to bring certain gifts and abilities to our friendships. Here are some of the kinds of friends I have enjoyed in my life, as well as the unique ways they have helped me grow and mature in my walk with God.
1. The Companion. These people are friendly, adventurous, and simply a lot of fun to be with. They are the people you “do life with”, whether that means teaming up to tackle the grocery shopping or meeting up at a park for a play date. You are in a similar stage of life, can relate to each other’s struggles, and enjoy each other’s company. God gives us these people to make life beautiful and to bring us joy and camaraderie for daily life. My Companion friends bring a lot of light and fun to my life and take away the loneliness that can accompany my life stage. I’m so thankful I have them! “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
2. The Helper. These friends see a need in your life and are quick to meet it in a practical way. They make freezer meals when you are sick, bring a coffee after hearing you had a sleepless night, or take your kids so you can have a much-needed break. They are God’s “hands and feet”, sharing His love for you in an active way. I have been blessed with a couple of these sweet people in my own life, and have been truly blessed and helped by them countless times. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
3. The Listening Ear. This is the kind of friend that you feel safest to open up to and share honestly with. They are trustworthy, don’t share your secrets with others, and have a true gift for drawing out your feelings and helping you process them. Oftentimes we need someone to just listen in order to understand what God is trying to teach us, so God uses these people to help us move forward from trials, lessons, and experiences. I have personally experienced the blessing of Listening Ear Frends and am often taken aback by how much it helps me to move through a challenge by simply being listened to . “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” James 1:19
4. The Exhorter. These friends are honest, forthright, and love you too much to let you stay stuck or get away with wrong thinking. Sometimes what they say can genuinely hurt your feelings because they are so focused on helping you see truth that they aren’t exactly gentle, but their ultimate motivation is for your good. God uses these people to help you recognize sin, grow out of immaturity, and become all that He wants you to be. I have some of these precious people in my life, and while my sensitive heart’s initial response to their words is hurt, I am always thankful later on when I recognize the truth and love behind their words. “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:2
5. The Prayer Warrior. These people are the ones you can count on to carry you in prayers. They ask how they can pray for you, are faithful in prayers, and let you know that they are praying whenever they see you. They are wonderful at building up your faith and helping you keep your focus on God. My Prayer Warrior Friends have been such an encouragement to me in my walk with God and have been witness to some of my biggest spiritual “aha” moments. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…” 1 Timothy 2:1
6. The Comforter. These are friends who empathize with others and offer genuine sympathy and compassion when you are hurting. They don’t offer solutions until you ask, and will cry with you and do what they can to ease your hurt. God uses these friends to help ease trials, provide solace, and ease a broken heart. This is the kind of friend I tend to be; I’m good at recognizing emotion, genuinely hurt with others, and want to do what I can to lighten others’ loads. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
7. The Cheerleader. This person recognizes strengths in others and encourages them to use them! God gifts these friends with passion and energy to encourage others to use their gifts to serve Him and help others. My dear Cheerleader friend is one big reason I have even started a blog, and she continues to motivate and inspire me to use my gifts of writing and insight to serve God! “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
8. The Mentor. This is a friend who is a little way “up the road” from you and has gained some experience, wisdom, and perspective that they use to help you in your journey. I have been blessed with a very precious woman in my life that really fills my heart when I get to meet with her. She takes my kids for me, listens to my problems, and helps me to remember that “this is just a stage”. I always leave time with her feeling empowered, hopeful, and “filled up”. “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise…” Proverbs 13:20a
Of course, most people don’t fit perfectly into one of the above descriptions, but are instead a beautiful mix of two or three of them, perfectly formed to do the work God has for them. I have full confidence that God is very purposeful in how He puts people together in every relationship, including friendship. You have the friends you have for a divine purpose, and God is using them to shape your life…just as He is using you to impact them. What a wonderful thought! May we all recognize and appreciate the different kinds of friends and relationships God has blessed us with, and also work to be the kind of friend God designed us to be for others.