A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
–Proverbs 17:17

The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about the importance of friendship. For example, in Proverbs 17:17, Solomon said, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” In Proverbs 27:6, he observed the value of a friend’s honesty: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” And in Proverbs 27:17, Solomon pointed out one of the many benefits of friendship: “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

God created friendships to satisfy our need for companionship. Marriage cannot satisfy our total need for companionship, so God also created friendships. There are four levels of friendships that are important to understand.

First, there are acquaintances. These are the people you meet day in and day out, perhaps the teller at the bank or the grocery store clerk. In one year’s time, you will probably make anywhere from 500 to 2,500 acquaintances. Most of these relationships will never go any deeper.

Second, there are casual friends. These are people you know on a first-name basis. A conversation with these people, whether at church, school, or work, involves superficial issues such as politics, sports, and so forth. Some of these casual friendships may only last a few months. Some may span a lifetime.

Third, there are close friends. Depending on your social network, your close friends can number anywhere from five to 25 people. These are your neighbors, church members, classmates, or work associates. These relationships are characterized by agreement on many basic issues.

Finally, there are intimate friends. Few of us have more than six intimate friends in a lifetime. These are people with whom you can share your deepest feelings and be the most vulnerable and open. These are the people you call at times of crisis. These friendships will endure a lifetime.

God has created us in such a way that we need the spiritual and emotional fulfillment that comes from being with friends. That is why one of the most important choices you can make for your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being is the choice of companionship, of friendship over loneliness. However, it is important to understand these levels of friendship to protect yourself from unrealistic expectations. When you expect a casual friend to behave like an intimate friend, you are doomed to disappointment. God puts all four levels of friends into our lives for a reason.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Living With Loneliness” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2013.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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