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The Gift of Soul Friends

Originally published at Encouragement for Today on June 27, 2023

“As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” 1 Samuel 18:1 (ESV)


My best friend and I met as young wives and became fast friends. We stayed close like sisters even when my family moved away, and we raised our babies as cousins. Our visits were frequent, and we spent hours together in our pajamas with coffee in one hand while our free hands managed the misbehaving child or the one who needed a hug and a snack.


We talked of home décor, outfits we got on sale, and sometimes our quirky husbands. But more importantly, we held space to wrestle through hard questions about our faith and how God was working in our lives. We shared the doubts we had about our parenting skills and the burdens we carried in our emotional struggles. We championed each other and prayed for one another. She was in my corner; I was in hers.


We all need friends who bring us back to who we are in Christ, challenging and cheering us on throughout our spiritual journeys, speaking God’s Truth when we lose our way. These are soul friends.


The English term “soul friend” comes from the Gaelic words anam cara, which were adopted by Christians in the sixth century when missionaries arrived in Ireland. This description speaks to the spiritual connection between godly friends that creates a strong bond. For a season or a lifetime, however many we have or for however long we have them, soul friends nurture our souls' soil like a hearty fertilizer, helping us flourish into who God created us to be.

In 1 Samuel 18-20, this was who Jonathan was to his friend David:

  • He delighted in David (1 Samuel 19:1).

  • He spoke well of David (1 Samuel 19:4).

  • He was loyal to David (1 Samuel 20:4).

  • He defended David (1 Samuel 20:32).

  • He cared about David (1 Samuel 20:34; 1 Samuel 20:41).

  • He respected David's privacy and confidences (1 Samuel 20:39).

  • God was the bond of their friendship (1 Samuel 20:42).

Sadly, Jonathan’s father, King Saul, wanted to kill David because he was jealous of him. And because of this, David had to flee. Both friends wept as they said goodbye: “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1).

Soul friends don’t come and go without pain. Maybe you’ve experienced pain in your own friendships because of jealousy or misunderstanding … even a wound so deep it just couldn’t be repaired. Or perhaps a move across the country separated you from your closest friend. Our grief over the loss of soul friends speaks to the deep bond of love. Soul friends give us a place to belong — and this is God’s idea. We were created for community by a triune God who loves us and wants the best for us (Genesis 1:26a).


Maybe you are in a season of longing for a soul friend, and if so, God hears every prayer you lift up to ask Him to bring godly community into your life. But even as you wait for His answer, you are not alone — you can lean in to the one Soul Friend who never leaves us, the Friend who loves at all times (Proverbs 17:17) and sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Jesus is the Friend who laid down His life for us and who shares everything with us that His Father tells Him. He chose us, and He teaches us to go and love others the same way (John 15:13-17).


Let’s invite Him to encourage, equip and embolden us to go out and become the kind of soul friends we desperately need. As we do so, we can ask God to lead us to someone we can bless with our lives and His love. In turn, we, too, will be blessed.


O Lord, how thankful I am for soul friends! They enrich our lives in unspeakable ways, heal our hearts, and testify to Your great love for us. For the woman in a season of loneliness, I pray for the perfect soul friend to water her soul with Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (NLT).


Proverbs 27:17 says godly friends “sharpen” one another.


In what ways is this true in your own friendships? In the comments, tell us about your soul friends!


© 2023 by Jodi Harris. All rights reserved.


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