Twos and Threes – Part 1 – Got Friends?

Perhaps the most beloved of all Carole King’s songs is “You’ve Got a Friend”:

When you’re down and troubled
and you need some loving care,
and nothin’, oh nothin’ is going right,
close your eyes and think of me
and soon I will be there
to brighten up even your darkest night.
You just call out my name
and you know wherever I am,
I’ll come runnin’ to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall,
all you gotta do is call,
and I’ll be there, yes I will—
you’ve got a friend.

We all want to feel like, in our times of trial or trouble, someone’s looking out for us, cares for us, is available to us, and, if nothing else, will commiserate in our worries and woes. Solomon understood this deep human need for friendship, for a special and deep connection with others. In Ecclesiastes 4.9-12 he wrote:

Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

In our day this ideal has been both celebrated—as in the television series, “Friends”—and scorned, as in the many Westerns starring Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name. People bounce back and forth between these opinions, now reveling with their pals and celebrating their friends, before sinking into the deep isolation and even depression of aloneness.

We were made for companionship. We can’t do everything we need to survive; we need helpers, colleagues, co-laborers, and spouses. While we might enjoy a season of quiet introspection bordering on pure melancholy, as in Milton’s great poem, Il Penseroso,

But let my due feet never fail
To walk the studious cloister’s pale,
And love the high embowed roof,
With antique pillars massy proof,
Casting a dim religious light.
There let the pealing organ blow,
To the full-voic’d quire below,
In service high, and anthems clear,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all Heav’n before mine eyes…,

soon enough we want to get back to enjoy life with those closest to us—again, as in Milton’s companion poem, L’Allegro:

And the jocund rebecks sound
To many a youth, and many a maid,
Dancing in the chequer’d shade;
And young and old come forth to play
On a sunshine holiday,
Till the live-long daylight fail;
Then to the spicy nut-brown ale,
With stories told of many a feat…

At the end of the day, none of us can make it alone. And this is especially true in the Christian life. Christians were not saved to be alone. We need friends, good friends, true friends, friends who take us seriously and who, at the same time, don’t. “Two are better than one” Solomon averred. Why? “Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.” We help and support one another, encourage and assist one another, and enjoy before the Lord the fruit of our common endeavors and experiences.

But even better than two friends, Solomon wrote, are three: “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Three friends together mirror not only the composition of each friend’s soul—mind, heart, and conscience—but the divine Trinity in Whose image we are made: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Friendship can be challenging. It’s an issue many struggle with—making friends and learning to trust them, only to be betrayed, abandoned, or even attacked. Too many friendships are merely outward and superficial, and while we probably will have a number of these in our lives, this is not the depth of friendship every believer in Jesus requires.

We need true friends, soul friends, or anam cara, as the old Irish saints used to call them, friends who know us in the depths of our soul and love our soul as much as we do. Friends who have our best interests in mind even if it means sacrifice or loss on their part. Friends to help us understand life, grow in the Lord, discover our best ways of serving Him, and nurture us in the beatific vision of that Friend Who sticks closer even than our closest brother, our Lord Jesus Christ.

We need friends of twos and threes. Who are your close friends? Take the time today to tell them so and reaffirm your friendship with them. And rejoice in the Lord for every one who says back to you, “You’ve got a friend.”

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