As Australian nurse Bronnie Ware cared for the dying, she heard them express five common regrets again and again. So, what is one of the deepest regrets of the dying? Not prioritizing friendship. On our deathbeds, most of us will wish we connected more often, and more deeply, with friends.
We’re experiencing a friendship famine in our day. As individualism increases, social bonds decrease. And we replace flesh-and-blood relationships with digital illusions of the same. Studies show that Americans have fewer and fewer close friends. Many people don’t feel lonely, but when they stop to think about the depth of their relationships, they often realize that they are more isolated than they thought.
I want to plead with you to live the rest of your days rightly valuing this gift of true friendship. But if we’re going to value friendship as we should, we need to know why it’s so valuable. Why is friendship worth all the effort we can give it?
Most foundationally, you need friendship because you are inescapably communal. You are made in God’s image, and God is not solitary — he eternally exists as a triune fellowship of love. This is why “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Our triune God made us to reflect him, and one beautiful implication is that we are wired for lives of relational fullness with other people.
God planted the longing for true friendship in our DNA. We won’t be able to live a fully flourishing life without it.
“True friendship is an affectionate bond forged between people as they persevere in the faith with truth and trust.”
Jonathan Edwards reflected deeply and often about true joy. Look at how he connects our happiness and friendship: “The well-being and happiness of society is friendship. ’Tis the highest happiness of all moral agents” (Works, 23:350). Edwards was a deep thinker. He was precise with words. He was a faithful pastor and theologian. When he claims that friendship is our highest happiness, I wonder: Why do we not seem to think or speak about friendship that way?
And Edwards is not alone. See how some of our other Christian heroes thought of this relationship:
Augustine: “In this world two things are essential: life and friendship. Both should be highly prized and we must not undervalue them” (Sermon 299D).
John Newton: “I think to a feeling mind there is no temporal pleasure equal to the pleasure of friendship” (Letters, 331).
C.S. Lewis: “Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life” (Collected Letters, 174).
We have lost something of the joyful wonder of this gift — experienced vertically with God and horizontally with one another. Which means we have a great opportunity to recover our forgotten heritage.
God brings us to faith, and he will cause us to persevere in this faith (Philippians 1:6). And he uses means, and one of his primary instruments is his people.
The author of Hebrews calls us to “exhort one another every day” (Hebrews 3:13) and to “encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:25). You and I need more than weekly meetings. We need relationships filled with discipleship intentionality. True friendship is an affectionate bond forged between people as they persevere in the faith with truth and trust.
Frodo carried the ring to Mordor, but he never would have made it without Sam.
We need companions who sit with us in days of darkness. We need them to embody and remind us of Christ’s heart for sinners and sufferers. One of the greatest gifts we can give one another in depression is our companionship.
J.C. Ryle wrote, “This world is full of sorrow because it is full of sin. It is a dark place. It is a lonely place. It is a disappointing place. The brightest sunbeam in it is a friend. Friendship halves our sorrows and doubles our joys” (“The Best Friend!”). Many of us carry around great pain and sorrow. True companions cut those sorrows in half, often with just their mere presence and the rightly placed words.
“The single greatest moment in history, where we see God’s glory shine most brightly, is a cosmic act of friendship.”
Friendship points to the ultimate end of our existence. God doesn’t just forgive us through Christ; he befriends us (John 15:13–15). He saves us to glorify him by enjoying fellowship with him forever. We are headed toward an eternal world of fellowship — with God and with all whom he’s befriended through Christ.
Friendship is also the means to this end, because the cross is the most heroic act of friendship history has ever known. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The cross is the greatest expression of love, and Jesus wants us to understand it as a sacrifice for friends. The single greatest moment in history, where we see God’s glory shine most brightly, is a cosmic act of friendship.
Let’s treasure God above friendship, thank God for friendship, and enjoy God through friendship. Admittedly, true friends can be hard to find, and many of us can recall friendships that disappointed or injured us deeply. But these five reasons show why friendship, despite all the mess and pain, is worth more effort than we often give it.
What next steps might you take to cultivate deeper friendships? Identify a few people and plan time to get together, such as a weekly rhythm of coffee or lunch. Reach out to a friend you’ve lost regular contact with. Plunge your conversations below the shallows and into the deeper waters of life. Oxygenate your friendships with affirmation and encouragement.
God helping us, let’s make it to our deathbeds without relational regret.