"Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?" are words from the hymn, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." How often has this happened to us, when friends aren't friends anymore? All the saints have experienced this at one time or another. The patriarchs, prophets, and Jesus himself felt the sting of betrayal by those who called themselves their friends but were not there when needed.
When Judas came to Jesus and kissed him, Jesus said, "Friend, why have you come?" Judas did not come to prove what a loyal friend he was, and Jesus knew it. In the same way, the Psalmist spoke about friends who despised and abandoned him (Psalm 55). He lamented to God that he couldn't become like a dove so he could fly away and find rest, and escape the coming storm.
We are directed to pray, "Give ear to my prayer, O God, and do not hide Yourself from my supplication. Attend to me, and hear me. I am restless in my complaint" (Ps 55:1-2).
It's not enemies that we have to worry about. They're obvious to us as they speak and act in ways that betray their true intent. It's supposed friends that are the most dangerous enemy to us because they earn our trust only to hurt us and cause us the greatest heartache, which can tempt us even to question God's grace and mercy. It doesn't matter whether we're young or old, rich or poor, influential, or humble; we've all felt the pain of betrayal by a friend who abandoned us when we thought we could depend on them.
We've all felt the pain of betrayal by a friend who abandoned us when we thought we could depend on them.
This occurs in families and in churches. Betrayal doesn't have any set boundaries. We can be sick or unemployed, hungry, or in need of a word of encouragement, and suddenly our friends turn their backs to us. It's at those moments that we, like the Psalmist, lament that we can't transform into a dove and fly away. We, too, pray to flee and escape the coming storm of regret, heartache, and self-judgment.
So where do we go to find rest? Where do we turn to hear a word of encouragement? Where do we go to find a tried and true friend who won't betray or abandon us when we need them most? We find our rest in the One who laid down his life for his friends.
As the Apostle Paul wrote, "God demonstrates that his own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8). What greater friend could we have than Jesus?
Jesus is our Lord and Savior, and he calls us "friends." He gave his life for us and our sin, and we know that he will not despise or abandon us. That is why we flee to Jesus in the storms of life, to his Gospel words, his gifts of salvation, and gather together in his name as his body, the Church.
For Jesus, he proves himself to be our true friend because friendship is life-giving, not just words said to pacify troubled souls. He doesn't hide from us. He doesn't ignore our supplications. He attends to us through his promise and gifts, listens to our complaints, and calms our restless hearts.