Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place. … to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. [Job 2:11-13 (ESV)]

Tanzania sculptureLabor Day weekend at the cottage was to be our last opportunity to enjoy time at the lake until next summer. Family would be visiting most of the time and the little guys were sure to keep us on the run. Closing the house for the season also meant a lot of chores: the house cleaned, sporting equipment brought up from the lake, deck furniture scrubbed and stowed, windows washed, the pantry emptied, and so on. The last thing either of us wanted was more work.

Before the kids and grands arrived, we had one day to quietly (and leisurely) finish up some tasks. It was also the only day we’d be free to spend any time with our neighbors until our return next June. The husband is suffering from a debilitating form of dementia so time with them is precious. By next summer, the man we’ve come to know and love may no longer even remember us. The easiest thing for us would have been to take them to dinner at a local restaurant but the noise would make it difficult for our hard-of-hearing friend and the crowd would cause him discomfort. While dinner at our house was the obvious solution, neither my husband nor I felt we had the time to spend shopping, prepping, cooking and cleaning up.

The Bible is filled with stories of friendship and people who found time for one another: Ruth and Naomi, Jonathan and David, Elisha and Elijah, Abraham and Lot, and Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Even Job’s three friends spent several days with him sitting at his side. A friend loves at all times, not just when it is convenient, so we knew we had to spend time encouraging and loving on our neighbors. Somewhat reluctantly, we invited them to dinner. Panic briefly set in as we scoured the kitchen to see what provisions we had. Cheese and homemade cookies for the appetizer and dessert were found in the freezer. We had enough tomatoes for a salad and the refrigerator held the ingredients for two easy make-ahead side dishes. A quick trip into town would provide the entrée in the way of an already prepared rotisserie chicken. Typically, our dinner party preparations are more complex, involving lots of prep work, but the Holy Spirit reminded us that friendship has nothing to do with an impeccably set table or a gourmet meal; friendship is breaking bread together in love. Perfection isn’t necessary in friendship; presence, however, is. Friendship is accepting and loving one another in our imperfection. While it’s good to remember friends in our thoughts and prayers, real friendship actually sits beside them whenever possible. Jesus gave his life for his friends and few of us will ever be asked to do as much as that. A little inconvenience now and then is a small price to pay for the blessings of friendship and the opportunity to share Christ’s love.

Father, thank you for the blessing of friends—brothers and sisters connected to one another, not by blood, but by their love for one another. Thank you for gifting us with people with whom we share good times and bad, sorrow and joy, laughter and tears, health and illness. May we never hesitate to be as generous with our time as our friends are with theirs. Guide us to love in the way we hope to be loved and to do for one another in the way we want to have done for us.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. [Proverbs 17:17 (ESV)]

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. [1 Peter 4:8-9 (ESV)]