Suffering comes to all of us. How we respond to it determines much. Will we withdraw from our closest relationships in order to protect ourselves like injured rabbits returning to their burrows? Or, will we allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable? The first option does nothing to build character or strengthen friendship. The second option is the path to joy.
When a close friend suffers, often the only thing you can do is be there. You want to fix them, or heal them, or bring a resolution to their situation, but this is almost never a legitimate possibility. You feel helpless, and often times they feel helpless, but there is nothing to do but endure together.
The willingness to endure suffering with a friend is the true test of trust, loyalty, and love. If you remain true in the dark times, it deepens the bonds of fellowship. I will follow you, even into the very fires of Mordor. At that point, your friendship is more than what you can get out of it. It’s about placing the other ahead of yourself. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
The value of suffering is found in its revelation of love. The lesser things melt away. The veil covering the heart is torn. When the suffering has passed, and you’re still standing side by side, all that’s left is…
the joy of friendship.
The final installment of this series is coming soon.