“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17).
There’s a lot of quaint, chicken-soup-for-the-soul-like talk about friendship out there, the kind of stuff that fills generically crafted greeting cards and makes a fine poster for the wall in your home or office. We think about friends in all kinds of ways, either as the soft pillow we cry on at night, or the person we go hang out with from time to time.
And while those things can be good, they’re usually focused on what we get out of someone or how they make us feel, which is often more self-centered and shallow than loving (others centered). Immersed in our culture—which is replete with a fondness for warm, vague emotions detached from the clear boundaries of truth, definition, or absolute meaning—we lose sight of the reality and depth of genuine friendship.
That’s why I’m so thankful, once again, for Davin Henrickson and his dying example of authentic friendship. In his calm, calculated, purposeful way, he’s drawing you and me back to Jesus, back to reality, back to truth, back to our true humanity, back to the essence of friendship and love. So I want to peel back the layers on Davin as a friend as he died, and in the process point you and I to a truer reality than any sentimental slogan could hope to capture.
As I talked with one of Davin’s best friends, Raleigh, about the year of cancer, the slow dying, and the final week leading up to his death, he painted for me a picture with his words about the kind of friendship that developed and deepened through pain and death.
“You think and say to yourself as friends, ‘I’ll be there with you to the bitter end,’ but you never think you actually will. And then we did, and it hurts like hell even now. I mean, to hold your best friend’s hand while he’s dying, and dying so well, to tell him that you love him and are proud of him, that you’re gonna see him again soon, all those things change you in ways you can’t even understand, even now.”
In my mind this stands as a supremely glorious illustration of real friendship—a friend is the person willing to lay down their life for your joy in God. It’s the one who holds your hand while you die, and the one who’s willing to die satisfied in Christ for your joy. It’s the one who welcomes you back, even after you wander off into stupidity. It’s the one who’s dying of cancer, concerned about how you are doing in the last moments of life.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants… but I have called you friends” (John 15:13, 15).
As this passage makes clear, friendship, like love, finds its essence in Jesus Christ, who died for our joy in the Father. All the other benefits of friendship are peripheral compared to this—giving your life for the one you call “friend.” That’s why you give them your time, listen to them pour out their heart, pray for them, walk with them in adversity, and share life together—because you are willing to lay down your life for their joy in Jesus.
All of this has been both sobering and sweet for me as I consider the life of Davin. Something else Raleigh said really drove this point home: “If you want friends like that, you need to be a friend like that.” That statement alone cuts me. Am I a friend like that? Are there people in my life that I’m daily giving myself to serve? Do I go after people, pray for them, and spur them on? Do I have any relationships that reach beyond the casual?
What about you; are you a friend like that? In the overwhelming glory of Jesus’ friendship toward you, he who died to bring you to the God of infinite delight, do you demonstrate the reality of that love in your life by dying for others?
I see Davin and Raleigh and others in this panorama of Christ-like friendship, I thank God with tears, and I pray, “God, help me understand a friendship like that. Help me be a friend like that.”