Friends Who Care

Last week, we talked about the kind of friends that could adversely affect our marriages. The complainer, the critic, and the cynic all hurt our God-given relationships and in many cases have contributed to the demise of a “friend’s” wedded bliss. But thank God that those are not the only friends we get to choose from. There is the other end of the spectrum, a different breed of friends. These are the friends who care about us. They care about our marriage and pray for us to make it. They hurt when we hurt, cry when we cry, and rejoice when we rejoice. These friends truly love us and want the best for our marriage. They don’t get all clingy and jealous of our spouse. They are encouragers. They are honest. They are real friends.

Let’s examine the type of friends we must surround ourselves with who seek to help, and not hinder our marriages.

The Honest Friend

It must start here. It is hard to move forward in a friendship without honesty. We cannot live our lives based on lies. Why would we want to have friendships that are dishonest?

In a time of “networking,” we have been programmed to make friends based on how they will help us in our business and life. And to some degree, that’s what this post is about. However, sometimes, honesty goes out the door because we’re afraid to hurt each other’s feelings or maybe it’s just not our business. Some might even say, “I’m not by brother’s keeper!”

If you see your friend walking towards a busy interstate highway, intending to hurt himself, what would you do? Would you trust what he’s doing? Would you say, “it’s none of my business?” Or would you scream to the top of your lungs, “stop,” while running to pull him back to safety?

I need a friend that would be honest with me and just say, “You’re being a jerk with your wife,” if I am being one. I need a friend who would be willing to give me honest feedback regarding my character, reputation, and marriage, especially at crucial stages of my life. And when done in love and at the appropriate time, I don’t consider it meddling.

We need friends that will be honest with us.

The Encouraging Friend

Can we all agree that there’s enough drama in this world? We don’t need to add to it! I need a friend who will encourage me. Notice what Paul said about the house of Onesiphorus:

“The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:”               2 Timothy 1:16

I know I’m not perfect. I know that my marriage isn’t perfect. I don’t need anyone creating drama around it or reminding me of how much I fail in life. I need someone who would refresh me. Someone who will say, “It’s okay if you messed up. Get up, get it right, and keep going.” Do your friends, like Onesiphorus, often refresh you?

The Challenging Friend

It’s been said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I receive help better from people who I know care about me. Abraham Lincoln said, “He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help.”

The fact is this: we are not done growing personally and maritally. We need help! Therefore we need friends who will challenge us to go to the next level. We need people who will challenge us to be more caring, romantic, thoughtful, etc. We need friends who constantly remind us not to settle for second best. After all, when it comes to our marriage, our attitude should always be, “the best is yet to come.” That only happens if we are willing to grow and a friend can help us with that.

Do you have friends who care? Friends who don’t get in the way of your marriage but rather become the stepping stones to a successful relationship. If so, hang on to them tightly, thank them for being honest with you, encouraging and challenging you. Your marriage has been helped by these special angels. How can you repay them? Be the same kind of friend to them, a friend who cares and together we can create a community filled with strong marriages.

Friendships and Marriage

“Today, I married my best friend.” That phrase was all over various items for our wedding. That’s how Amy and I really felt. God gave our marriage the solid foundation of a strong friendship. We fell in love as friends and to this day, I can say without hesitation that she is my best friend. There is no one on the face of the planet I’d rather spend every moment of every day with than my precious wife. I love her and I would marry her all over again.

But realistically speaking, there are other friendships that surround our marriage. As husband and wife, we have other friends, may it be other couples, singles, elderly, etc. Yes, you’re spouse is still your best friend but you have other friends, too, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But did you know that your friendships affect your marriage? I’m not saying you shouldn’t have friends when you’re married but the kind of friends you have will have some influence on your marital relationship. The Bible says it this way,

“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Proverbs 13:20

Simply put, friendships can shape the choices and consequences of our marriage. Just like we caution our children to “choose their friends wisely,” we should do the same, especially if you’re married. Who you “walk with” will determine whether your marriage will be filled with wisdom or eventually be destroyed.

Today, let’s notice the friends we may want to keep at arm’s length. I’m not advocating being mean-spirited or cliquish. But I would be careful not to spend too much time with friends that have these characteristics.

The Complainer

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings:” Philippians 2:14

As Americans, we’ve become accustomed to “having it our way.” You can customize your house, your car, your food order, your phone, your playlist, and on and on it goes. Because of this, when something just doesn’t go our way, we want everyone to know about it. We’ll post a negative review or slam someone on social media. If you think about it, our lifestyle has led us to believe that it’s okay to complain when we don’t get our way.

May I remind you of life’s rule 44? Life isn’t fair! You can cry and complain about it or you can deal with it. Complainers hurt their own spirit as well as the spirit of those around them.

If you hang around someone who complains all the time, it won’t be long before you pick up on the same attitude. What’s amazing is that you have this unbelievable love for your spouse but when you begin to have a complaining spirit, all of a sudden that perfect companion and soul mate begins to manifest all of his/her flaws. Newsflash: it’s always been there but because you weren’t a complainer, you allowed your love to cover the multitude of his/her sins.

So stop hanging around the complainer.

The Critic

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29

Our words have power. They can either build or destroy. A critic is a typical “arm-chair quarterback.” They’re the ones who want to offer every parent advice when they don’t even have a child. They’re the ones that have all the answers to marital problems when they’ve never even committed to someone for a lifetime. They believe it is their life’s calling to critique everyone. Watch out. Being around this type of “friend” will cause you to be that spouse who thinks it’s always someone else’s fault. If God says we are “one flesh,” then it means it’s both of our faults.

The Cynic

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

God is good. Always. All the time. In our good times as well as the bad, God is always good. And yet, there are those who are always so negative. We’re not talking about the power of positive thinking. We’re talking about knowing the power of an omnipotent God. Don’t allow your trust in God to be tainted by the negativity of the cynic.

People who are negative have a tendency to bring others down with them. After all, doesn’t “misery love company?” Marriage is already hard work in and of itself. Don’t pile on top of it by bringing in a negative and untrusting spirit. The wrong kind of friends can do that to you.

These are three types of friends you want to limit your time with because it can adversely impact your marriage. Instead, do you best to influence them to be the opposite of what they are: contented, encouraging, and positive. Why? Because these are the type of friends that will help strengthen our marriages. And trust me, we all need help to do just that.

Simple Steps to An Affair-Free Marriage, Part 2

Step 4: Keep the Fire Burning

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned – Song of Solomon 8:6-7

Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love – Proverbs 5:18-19

Time and distance are constant enemies of marriage. The natural flow of relationships is never towards but away from each other. It takes work to make a relationship work!

Remember when you and your spouse were dating/courting. You worked to prove your love to each other. You wrote notes, bought flowers, made gifts, took time, talked, served and preferred each other. What about now? Do you approach the same “duties” with the same fervor or are you just going through the motions? Are you just being romantic so that “momma stays happy because if she ain’t happy, then nobody’s happy?”

People who are labeled as “romantic” work at being just that. It doesn’t come natural but being selfish and thinking about “my wants and my needs” does come easy. So you’ve got to plan. You must prepare.

It’s just like having a campfire or a fireplace. You have to sometimes stoke the fire or blow into it to see the flames rise. Sometimes you have to add more wood or even squirt an accelerant. Then, whoosh! The fire is raging and burning much hotter than it did before.

Your marriage deserves the same, if not more, attention. Throw some fuel into it. Have regular date nights but don’t be boring and predictable. Plan to be intimate. Yeah, I said it, plan it! There is definitely room for spontaneity but if you have kids, you know that there’s not much room for surprises. Ladies, give your husband some money and send him to the store to buy you something to wear. Text your husband a “message” and let him know what’s waiting for him.

You don’t have to be ashamed. Remember, these are all honorable in marriage according to God. I love what Proverbs 5 says, “be thou ravished ALWAYS with her love.” Enough said.

Step 5: Remember Your Family & Friends

As a husband, father, assistant pastor, couples’ teacher and school principal, I have people (both young and old) that observe my life. Now, I’m not taking these steps for them, per sé, but they are affected by what I do.

Not only is your spouse affected by your affair (physical or emotional) but so are your kids, your friends, and your church. Everyone feels a level of pain because of the selfish and sinful act. Having an affair is not a victimless crime!

I remember talking to a young person a few years ago who foolishly exclaimed, “I think marriage is a joke.” After asking him why he thought that, I soon discovered that his dad had been unfaithful multiple times to his mom. In his eyes, what’s the point of getting married and being committed? After explaining to him what the Bible says about marriage and the blessing that it is, he apologized and had a different perspective on marriage.

A dad’s foolish affair affected his son’s attitude and perspective that day. You can do the same, too.

(the article will be concluded next week)