Nurturing a Friendship
This series on How to Encourage a Depressed Friend continues with tip #3 – Spend One-on-One Time Together. Tip #2 gave suggestions for how to be available for your friend. So, what’s the difference?
You can be available over the phone, through email, or other means but one-on-one, face-to-face contact can lead to greater trust and intimacy in the relationship. When you get together in person, you are showing you care about friends and are willing to spend special time with them. You demonstrate a desire to grow in your friendship.
A thriving relationship is comprised of trust, compassion, and unconditional love. We will occasionally have disagreements followed by reconciliations. We may lose touch for a while, but when we get back together it feels as if no time passed. The best way to support a depressed friend is to first and foremost be a friend. The Bible tells of beautiful friendships that serve as examples for us in developing friendships. Later, we’ll look at the relationship between David (shepherd boy turned king) and Jonathon (the son of King Saul).
Here are a few practical suggestions for spending one-on-one time with a friend.
- Share a meal at a restaurant or in your home.
- Go for a walk or a drive and enjoy a conversation and the opportunity to encourage.
- Give them hope by sharing your story of how God helped you overcome an emotional crisis.
- Allow them to comfort you by sharing your own spiritual and emotional needs.
- Invite them to cry on your shoulder.
- Pray with them.
David and Jonathan
You may have heard the story of David, a shepherd boy, and Goliath, a Philistine giant. The soldiers of Israel were afraid of the Philistine army and no one stepped forward to fight Goliath, the Philistine’s challenger. Then a bold young man, armed with only a slingshot and five stones, claimed he could beat the giant. David trusted God to be his strength and protector. David defeated Goliath with one stone straight to the head. Israel celebrated and David stood before King Saul. The king’s son, Jonathan, was also present.
“Now it came about when David had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. Saul took David that day and did not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.” (1 Samuel 18:1-5)
With their first encounter, David and Jonathan formed a bond for life. Jonathan recognized something special about David to the point of relinquishing his royal robe and weapons to his friend. Jonathan’s actions pointed to David’s future kingship over Israel. Saul soon became jealous of David not only for his friendship with his son, but also because David had greater success in defeating Israel’s enemies. Saul’s anger, paranoia, and irrational emotions resulted in attempts to take David’s life.
“Now Saul told Jonathan his son and all his servants to put David to death. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, greatly delighted in David. So Jonathan told David saying, ‘Saul my father is seeking to put you to death. Now therefore, please be on guard in the morning, and stay in a secret place and hide yourself. I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak with my father about you; if I find out anything, then I will tell you.” (1 Samuel 19:1-3)
Jonathon reminded his father of David’s good works and persuaded him to drop his attempts to kill David. Peace came, but only for a short time. David and Jonathan continued to meet together and their friendship grew. Jonathan demonstrated his love for David by helping him escape from his father, an act that could have cost Jonathan his life. He knew he and David may not meet again, but Jonathan did not hesitate in putting David’s needs ahead of his own.
“Then Jonathan said to David, ‘The LORD, the God of Israel, be witness! When I have sounded out my father about this time tomorrow, or the third day, behold, if there is good feeling toward David, shall I not then send to you and make it known to you? If it please my father to do you harm, may the LORD do so to Jonathan and more also, if I do not make it known to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. And may the LORD be with you as He has been with my father.’” (1 Samuel 20:12-13)
As the story unfolds, Saul continued to chase David around the wilderness in attempts to kill him. Jonathan visited David to bring him encouragement. But Israel continued fighting against enemy nations as well. Sadly, the Philistines caught up with Saul. They killed him, Jonathan, and Saul’s other sons.
David remembers Jonathan
Many years later, David remembered a covenant he had established with Jonathan. His love for Jonathan moved him to carry it out when he discovered Jonathan had a son in need.
“David asked, ‘Is there anyone remaining from Saul’s family I can show kindness to because of Jonathan?’ There was a servant of Saul’s family named Ziba. They summoned him to David, and the king said to him, ‘Are you Ziba?’ ‘I am your servant,’ he replied. So the king asked, ‘Is there anyone left of Saul’s family that I can show the kindness of God to?’ Ziba said to the king, ‘There is still Jonathan’s son who was injured in both feet.’The king asked him, ‘Where is he?’ Ziba answered the king, ‘You’ll find him in Lo-debar at the house of Machir son of Ammiel.’
“So King David had him brought from the house of Machir son of Ammiel in Lo-debar. Mephibosheth son of Jonathan son of Saul came to David, bowed down to the ground and paid homage. David said, ‘Mephibosheth!’ ‘I am your servant,’ he replied. ‘Don’t be afraid’ David said to him, ‘since I intend to show you kindness because of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all your grandfather Saul’s fields, and you will always eat meals at my table.’” (2 Samuel 9:1-7)
David and Jonathan had a rare friendship built on trust. Jonathan felt pain and anguish when his father tried to end David’s life. David was afraid and distressed when he found it necessary to run from the king. Through their emotional ups and downs, they stood by each other. This is what we’re called to do for our friends.