It takes a lot of work to be a good friend.

I was nineteen years old when my grandmother spoke these words to me. We were in her burgundy Buick, delivering a meal to a sick friend. Her hands were knotted and worn from many years of painful arthritis, but she was always the first one to arrive with food after a friend lost a loved one or was newly discharged from the hospital.

I reluctantly admit I did not realize the value of her words until much later. My friendships at nineteen consisted of laughter, pool parties, movies with popcorn, and bike rides. They were sweet friendships, but they were also easy ones. Fast forward through the years since, and our lives and those friendships have changed a lot. We’ve faced many obstacles—cancer, loss of loved ones, hospital visits, financial difficulties, and other hardships. There have also been many joys—marriages, first homes, careers, and starting families.

Over the years, I have explored what being a friend really means, and my conclusion is that it is hard work to be a good friend, but it’s, oh, so worth it. A good friendship is not a lazy, sunny ride down a country road. It is a roller-coaster ride through life. But when the ride ends, you take a deep breath, look at your friend, and say, “That was awesome!”

One of the best examples of friendship in the Bible is the story of David and Jonathan. First Samuel 18:1 NASB says that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.” Jonathan was loyal to David and was not jealous that David would become the next king, a position that should have been his own. Also, even though Jonathan’s father, Saul, wanted to kill David, Jonathan was faithful to his friend and helped him escape from his father. They parted that day as dearest friends but were never able to see each other again. This relationship was messy, but that didn’t keep them from being friends. The relationship between Jonathan and David shows that friends need to be sacrificial, loyal, and trusting.

It is important to seek out Christian friendships, wherever we find ourselves. Some relationships will be lifelong, and some, like David and Jonathan’s, will be only for a season. We must pray and ask God to bring these Christian friendships into our lives.

In order to be a good friend, we should consistently seek after a personal relationship with Christ. Without a relationship in Christ, we will be unable to mirror so many important characteristics of healthy friendships.

Colossians 3:12–13 NASB says that “as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another and forgiving each other.”

None of my friendships are perfect; we are not perfect people. But this verse is a pretty good formula for a Christian friendship. Following this advice will reduce misunderstandings and arguments that must be forgiven. There will be opportunities to show kindness and compassion. There will be many times when the friendship requires listening, understanding, and great patience.

To protect good friendships, you must cultivate them. Don’t wait for your friends to call or visit. Building a good friendship requires action from you. Seek out friends, be compassionate, and provide help and encouragement. Praying for each other is another big part of a Christian friendship.

Paul’s writings in the New Testament are filled with his prayers for others and his thankfulness for their relationships. In Ephesians 1:15–16 NIV, Paul says, “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” His writings encourage Christians to be strengthened with God’s Power (Ephesians 3:16), to glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:6), and to share the precious Gospel of Jesus with everyone (Colossians 4:2–4).

Just like fingerprints, no two friendships will look alike. As I stated before, there is no perfect friendship, because we are imperfect people. We will mess up, be unkind, and lack compassion—and we will have to ask for forgiveness from our friends. My grandmother was right: it is hard work to cultivate friendships. However, we see in scripture that an important part of our Christian life is to walk alongside other Christians.

Christ calls us to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34 NIV). Let us fulfill Christ’s call to action. Cultivate friendship; love and encourage your friends today!

Written by Kristi Dews Dale

Photo by  Roberto Nickson (@g)