What would you do if you knew a friend was having a really bad day—or week, or month? If you knew a good friend was feeling lonely, to the point of being depressed? Would you call or visit, just because you love them? Would you send them a card, or surprise them with a small gift? Would you invite them to join you for coffee or tea at a restaurant, or to your home for lunch or dinner? Would you invite another friend or two to go with you to take them on an outing? Would you also pray for them, and connect with them again soon? I’m sure you would, because I’ve seen that many of us do these things fairly often.
But, one of the greatest needs among some of our precious friends in the area is that some are very lonely. It’s a problem that can seem to have no solution, and seemingly never end. We’ve probably all experienced loneliness to some degree, so we know what it feels like. Before Nancy and I were married we lived half a continent away from each other, and our times together were very short and months apart. I remember the emotions and emptiness in my heart when we had to say “Goodbye” after just a few days of visiting. My friend Joe was a solitary person, sometimes putting on a good front of being OK with that, but often in private conversations he spoke of how much it hurt to have no one close. Sure, I was there, on the phone for a few hours each month, but mostly there was no one to talk to. In my visits with my friends in the Church, I often hear and sense the wishes and desires and needs for loneliness to be lifted from them.
Of what value is a friend? Well, God says that friends are to be treasured. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.” Friends do things together, combining their efforts toward accomplishing good things. “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.” Just a couple of weeks ago the value of this principle was made very clear, as an elderly, solitary friend did fall. What a blessing it was that a friend came by the next morning! The passage in Ecclesiastes 4 includes this principle, too: “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
If you are wondering how you can serve in the Church, consider being a good friend to one or two more of our solitary members, not out of duty, but out of love. There are some amazing people in our Church circuit who God has called, and I’m always impressed with them when we visit. Their life stories witness to the love of God and to their faith. Someday they will be ruling with Christ over ten cities, or five, or three, but they will be there! Right now, that seems far away, as what they must endure now is difficult. But they know, and believe that these sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in them as well as us. What a blessing it is to be able to be close friends, brothers and sisters in the faith, looking forward to that time when we’ll never be alone again.