In the midst of the most brutal tribulation I ever faced, the man who was once my closest friend had now deserted me. He had often called me brother. Out of nowhere I was in a literal nightmare and more than ever, I needed my friends. There was someone else, and when he found me in despair, he picked me up, dusted me off and walked with me through an attack on my sanity and my soul.
Two friends stood out to me, but for very different reasons.
The second friend I mentioned had barely spoken to me for over 20 years. In fact, if memory serves, we only saw each other once since high school. By God’s grace he contacted me during the absolutely worst week of my life, having no idea what was happening to me. He asked me to help him with a project he was leading at his church. It was an incredible opportunity, but I was now dead broke and living with my mom in a Senior Living condo while destruction was happening all around me. I explained a little in a message to him, and within 24 hours he was buying me breakfast.
He listened to me and asked me some pretty tough and intense questions. He offered wisdom, prayer and what I needed most, friendship. As he held me accountable and listened to everything, he helped me define three things:
First, what was the truth? What were the actual facts in front of me and what did I actually see, observe, and could attest to.
Second, what was the situation surrounding me and what were my actions throughout everything? Who was advising me and my family, and what were they telling me to do. He compared their words and instructions to the facts I had observed and then provided me with direct insight from God’s word.
Third, and finally, he helped me pursue holiness. Not through a judgmental form of lashes on the back, with me walking around with my head down and discouraged, but through a focused attempt to get me to embrace truth and peace into my soul. He leveraged the story of Daniel into my life, saying how so many tried to find sin in his life to expose him as a fraud, but because of his passion and love for God, he pursued holiness and they found nothing. My friend challenged me to be like Daniel, and threw himself right into the middle of all of this with me.
My one-time closest friend disappeared faster than Hilary Clinton’s emails. When tragedy struck, every message was suddenly unanswered and he was gone. Ministry quickly became more important than our friendship, than being the brother I thought he was. In the end, there was an apology, and forgiveness. I truly am grateful for the man who was once my friend. However, just because we forgive someone and have closure, doesn’t mean we can’t share in learning from their life and where they have struggled.
My loyal friend who stood by me, Craig Maxwell, contacted me again last week to let me know of a situation I was unknowingly involved in that could impact myself and my family negatively. It did, but because of my loyal friend’s convictions, I was able to get a handle on this situation quickly, and protect myself, my wife and my children from further damage. One more thing about Craig you should know, as an example to all of us is that he never once shied away from asking me the toughest questions you can imagine. When I confessed sins to him, he was all over me. He didn’t care about excuses, but kept his standard based upon the word of God. At one point, he strongly disagreed with me about something and refused to let it go. I listened to him, repented, and corrected my ways. He had earned my trust and my respect.
The first friend…crickets.
Here’s the kicker in this whole thing – the other friend could have been me, and maybe it has been. Before my divorce there were times when I was overly judgmental and led my ministry activities with an internalized piety and lack of humility. I said things like “It takes two to tango. If a man’s wife is struggling, you can bet the guy is, too.” Or vice versa. This was too often my thought process, and it came from a religious mindset, rather than one of love and grace.
We need a world full of Craig Maxwells. We need a world full of tough people who love God and will stick by you when you need it most, even when it means getting deep into someone’s junk and holding them accountable.
So, who are you? Look at your news feed and see who is struggling. Have you reached out to them in the love and grace God has shown you? Be a Craig today, my friends. Teach your friends to be like Daniel, and stand by them when no one else will. Isn’t this what Jesus did for you?