One of my favorites albums from the ‘90s is Wildflowers by Tom Petty. Nearly every summer that album gets a few listens straight through. It’s a complete work—a puzzle of many parts that, when put together, create a striking picture. But there is one song I think about even when I’m not listening to the album.
When Petty sings, “It’s Hard to Find a Friend,” I cannot help but think how true a statement it really is. I think about my kids, my oldest daughter in particular, who has struggled to make and keep friends because of her disability. Whenever I see people who look or sound lonely, I think of that song, of that line. It’s truly one of those lyrics that rings in my head even when I haven’t listened to the album for a long time.
The longing for friendship is so innate, so obvious, that I am struck by anyone who seems content in their loneliness. It makes no sense to me because I really feel the longing for deep friendship in my own life, even to the point of pain.
The story of David and Jonathan is rightly told as a story of deep and meaningful friendship. David is a friend to Jonathan, despite Jonathan’s father, Saul, trying to kill David. Jonathan pledges his friendship to David, even though his commitment is an act of treason against his father, the king. This is a costly friendship, and I believe God wants us to see the beauty in it.
But I think we make a mistake when we read this story and walk away trying to be a friend like these men. I think this story is best read as a way to whet our appetites for true friendship. And not just any friendship. We all long for a friend who will love us and stand by us, even if it might cost them something—convenience, time, or in the case of David and Jonathan, reputation and even life.
In Matthew 11:19, Jesus is called a friend of “tax collectors and sinners,” and it’s not meant as a compliment. The people Jesus befriended tarnished His reputation among the religious leaders of the day, but He didn’t care; those were the people He’d come to care for. Jesus knew those were the ones most likely to come to a place where they found they needed someone. He came to meet that need, ultimately, at the cost of His own life.
You see, the story of David and Jonathan’s friendship is read best when it points us to our own longing for the costly and beautiful friendship of Jesus with sinners like us. His friendship is the deepest imaginable, the most loyal. He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother, who chose us and gave His life for us (Proverbs 18:24; John 15:16-17).
There is nothing we can do to lose Christ’s friendship. This is good news for all of us who find it “hard to find a friend.”
Written by Matthew B. Redmond