When you’re down and troubled
And you need some love and care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night
You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running, to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend
If the sky above you
Grows dark and full of clouds
And that old north wind begins to blow
Keep your head together
And call my name out loud
Soon you’ll hear me knocking at your door
—“You’ve got a friend” by Carole King, 1971
It was the summer of 1971. A hot, sweaty summer as only the American South can boast. Our small window air conditioner feebly fought back against the heat and humidity while I lay there, too full of indolence to do much more than reach over and flip the switch on the radio. And, then a cool voice seeped into my sweltering room. That 23-year-old, brown-eyed, teen-crush James Taylor was singing Carole King’s “You’ve got a friend.” Oh, he was so fresh! And in those early years of the Jesus Movement and my own first stirrings of longing for some kind of connection with a personal God, I imagined Jesus as a cool and holy version of James Taylor. A ready friend whenever I called.
Don’t you love the faith perspective of 13-year-olds? So uncomplicated! I’ve grown beyond thinking Jesus is just a dreamy guy waiting for me to call him when I need a friend. And yet, don’t we find His forever friendship all throughout Scripture? It’s embedded in the Hebrew word hesed. Hesed doesn’t have a literal English word translation, but includes related words like compassion, mercy, commitment, and steadfastness. Found roughly 250 times in the Old Testament, God’s hesed love is His unrelenting commitment to passionate and intimate relationship with us. His always and forever love.
It is hesed love that draws us into deeper union with the Trinity. And flowing from that relationship with the Trinity, we are released to love others in hesed friendship. Friendship that includes sacrifice, vulnerability, steadfastness, forgiveness, and joy (see Matthew 15:9-15).
ACTION: When you think of the word friend, what comes to mind? Does someone’s face spring immediately to your awareness? Notice what emotion you feel. Joy? Sadness? Betrayal? Loneliness? Belonging? Where do you need the hesed friendship of God today? His always and forever love and presence. Can you ask Him for that? Or to whom might you offer hesed friendship?