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A Friend Loves At All Times

A Friend Loves At All Times

Are y’all kidding me?! I still can’t get over your response to the Encourage Her launch. Thank you for the overwhelming response! If you missed them the first go round, they’ve been restocked! You can check them out here.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up…Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,12.

A few months ago, I had been asked to share my testimony at a conference dedicated to helping women heal from trauma and woundedness. It was a true honor and gift from the Lord to be able to proclaim all of the wonders He has performed for my family and me over the years. 

The conference just took place three weeks ago and dang y'all, my biggest takeaway was that pain is real and it is everywhere. While it may look different in each of our lives, pain is the common thread that somehow ties us all together. I was moved mightily by how God can use our testimonies and past pain to set others free; to remove the shame associated with trauma, disappointment and failure. The bill has been paid in full-- if we could out sin the cross, Jesus would still be in the grave. His sacrifice made grace possible and available to all, for all situations and circumstances. God really is who He says He is! It is God’s greatest delight to bring about healing, deliverance and wholeness.  And He allows others to be apart of witnessing this entire miraculous process.

And she defeated her accuser by the blood of the Lamb and the word of her testimony! –Revelation 12:11

The enemy loves to use our shame to keep us isolated and feeling like we are the only ones who have ever walked through something so painful or horrible. When you think about it, this may be his greatest work because culturally we don’t feel safe to come forward with our struggles out of fear of what they might be met with—either by sin-shock or sin-ranking. Our shame might be amplified or we might be rejected or misunderstood. 

Jesus certainly understands how being rejected, misunderstood and abandoned all feels. He experienced it and identifies with us in the midst of our sufferings! Bringing our darkness into the light (to trustworthy and safe people) immediately muzzles the enemy and the power of darkness is defeated. If we try to fight the devil in the dark, he wins every time! 

Our problem is not that we lack the light, but that we love the dark. This is the hardness of our hearts. – John Piper

Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. --Romans 12:15

Sin tells us to be ashamed, to hide and bow up with pride. It has the power to quarantine us and keep us from living in the freedom that Jesus freely gives us. An environment of trust is grown when you admit your failures regularly with others, proving we aren’t alone and how much we collectively need Jesus. Paul David Tripp says it so simply, we are never “grace graduates!” Sharing shatters the illusion of aloneness and the real delusion of the thought, “I must be the only one who has stood here before.”

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. –James 5:16

We don’t need more eye-rollers, scoffers, gossipers, skeptics or drama-makers. Can I get an amen? We need more encouragers, more understanding, more compassion and more believers tethered to God’s Word in the middle of the storm! Let me be clear though, I use to be one of those women in the first category. I have so much compassion for them because I know how I felt inwardly at the peak of that season. My prayer is that the scales fall off of their eyes so that they may be healed and recognize that they are cheapening God’s work by choosing to be judge and jury. We are called to live unoffended and love defended by the covering of the cross.

Such denial always leads to devaluing of and a resistance to God’s grace. Denying your need for grace and underestimating the power of what grace can do never, ever leads to anything good. – Paul David Tripp 

Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. --Colossians 3:13

Relationships are messy, I know. But they are also one of the greatest treasures and gifts we have while on earth. God knew how much we needed community to us get through life’s tough stuff. We weren’t created to be alone or function solo. Did you know cancer develops from a cell that’s isolated and alone? Isolation is the enemy’s playground—he thrives and feeds on it. Similarly, our hearts and spiritual condition decays when we are alone or relying on our own gospel, rules or coping mechanisms. So if it takes friends around us to help us through, we need to understand what it takes to be a good friend, especially to those who require a little (or a lot of) extra grace in their season of suffering.

The highest joys of friendship grow in the soil of the deepest struggles. Struggles are not obstacles, but instruments in God’s hands. Every struggle is an opportunity to experience God’s grace yourself and give it to the other person. – Paul David Tripp 

Above all else, love each other deeply, for love covers a multitude of sins. --1 Peter 4:8

Just as I have you, love one another! --John 15:12

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. -- Ephesians 4:2

In a season of my life where everything around me felt like it was imploding, I had a group of treasured friends walk through the whole explosion with me. Two handfuls of women that stood in the gap and interceded on my behalf when I remained virtually blind and deaf. They were a total force to be reckoned with and they showed me what it looked like to restore someone, carry their burdens, war in prayer, share in (long) suffering, and to deeply love their broken friend.

Second to Ellis’ deep forgiveness and love for me, I had a radial encounter in regard to friendship—friendships that were built on the gospel of grace. In all of His goodness, the Lord put a community in place for Ellis and me that we desperately needed and relied upon in our time of suffering. It wasn’t easy by any means—there were many tearful arguments and painful conversations between these friends and us, but they were filled with authenticity, life-giving encouragement, vulnerability and hope. These women were extravagant grace donors for me when I was in the middle of my sin because they knew the stakes were high. 

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. –James 5:19-20

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you. --Ephesians 4:32

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. --Galatians 5:14

I often look back on those deeply painful days and wonder how these people stuck by us. How could they deeply love me through my deepest, often torturous, soul-searching efforts? They provided a safe place for me to ask, seek and process. In that safe place I would uncover chunks of truth in regards to what was wrong with my heart and would eventually process my brokenness at a resounding level, a level I had been scared to explore my entire life. These friendships aided in helping me gain an understanding of how I had gotten to the lowest of lows. What I found possibly the most shocking, is that these people who had loved us back together in a sense had also experienced deep grace-needing encounters of their own and had a profound grasp on their past, current and on-going need for that daily rescuing and transforming grace only Jesus provides. Because of their understanding of their own need of grace, they were able to extend it to me in my ultimate time of need.  They were a tool of grace in the hands of our gracious Savior.

Friendship is a choice and an expense of time. My friends hated the sin, not me as the sinner. Their love helped remove my shame so the real work could begin. It radically undid me and helped me begin to understand grace at its most practical human level. Because of it, I now know friendship, relational beauty and intimacy that I never knew before. I see the fruit and unforeseen riches born out of our pain. God’s promises truly never return to us void. Jesus talks at great length about how love is the greatest commandment. That above all else, we must love each other deeply (1 Peter 4:8). We can have all the faith in the world but without love, we have nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2). This was exactly how the Lord designed the body of Christ to function. It was God's kindness that lead us to repentance (see Romans), not judgement or heaping on more shame or condemnation.

Hurt people hurt people, but helped people help people. Broken people shatter people, but whole people restore people. Damaged people break people, but rebuilt people build people. Shatter people damage people, but loved people love people. Wounded people wound people, but healed people bind up wounds. Bound up people bind people, but freed people lead others to freedom! – Christine Caine 

She loved much because she had been forgiven much! --Luke 7:47

A friend loves at all times! --Proverbs 17:17

Let me leave you with my favorite display of friendship from the Bible. If you have a Bible handy (or a the App on your phone), read Luke 5:17-26.

And behold, some men were bringing a man on a bed who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. –Luke 5:18-19.

Spark Note version: a group of men heard Jesus was teaching nearby, so they carried their friend, who couldn’t walk (sick, broken, wounded), to be healed by Him. When they arrived to where Jesus was, there was a huge crowd, so they had to come up with plan B. Most people would’ve just given up, but not these guys—they went up on the roof and removed roof tiles to literally lower their friend to the feet of Jesus. One, can you imagine the physical labor they had to endure to lift this man’s dead weight up to the roof? Two, can you say bold and desperate?

Hello! If that isn’t a precise picture of the types of friends we need to be to each other, I’m not sure what is.  These men suffered, persisted and endured all the while being bothered and troubled for the sake of their friend—all to bring him exactly where he needed to be. That is love and grace, you guys. These men recognized they couldn’t heal their friend or fix him, they just knew, in faith, where to go and they took him there.

Sometimes we each have to be carried to the feet of Jesus, to the Healer, for fixing, restoration and recovery. And yes, this man was healed (it’s actually one of my favorite miracles of Jesus’ in all the scriptures, probably because I see me so vividly being carried by my friends to Jesus)! Jesus then says in verse 24, “Stand up, pick up your mat and go home!” What was broken was now healed, all because of an encounter with Jesus. Bring your friend to Him and encourage them every step of the way!

And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe and wonder, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today!” – Luke 5:25-26

I want this for all of us! But we have to be there -- up close -- to witness the miracle take place. Go love on your broken, wounded friend today, y’all. Bring the truth of God’s loving, merciful Word to her and show her where to go!

Encourage one another and build each other up! --1 Thessalonians 5:11

I could go on and on when it comes to friendship. But because I know you all have busy lives, I’ll save the rest of this for my next blog. We’ll be digging deeper into grace, so get excited.

Praying this bracelet and scripture gift set is given as a tool for others (or yourself) to be reminded of how deeply loved, known and cherished we each are by our Heavenly Father. 

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1 comment on A Friend Loves At All Times
  • Jane Phillips
    Jane Phillips

    Jen I believe being willing to be vulnerable is the first step in establishing true relationships. No pretense, no masks, no rationalizations. We learn this more deeply when we have someone step into our pig sty to stay and pray until our eyes and ears reopen. I thank our Father for what you have experienced and the beautiful growth it is producing. All love and respect, jp

    February 28, 2019
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