… for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.Acts 17:23 NLT
When I was younger, I loved hanging out with my friend Scott.
We would stay up late playing video games, spend the night at each other’s houses, and talk about all kinds of stuff. We talked about who we liked, what we thought about school and teachers, how I felt about my relationship with my dad, what we wanted to do in the future – anything really. I had fun hanging out with Scott because I felt like I could just be me.
But, it never occurred to me to see God in that way. My family went to church, but I didn’t know how to be around God or how to interact with him. We prayed memorized prayers before dinner and went to church services filled with rituals I didn’t understand. So, I spent years attending things, but God remained unknown to me.
It wasn’t until my twenties when I started to read the Bible for myself that I began to change my view of God and really know him. God became my friend.
I learned that he felt emotionally for me (Isaiah 49:14-16), he paid attention to me (Psalm 139:16-18), he valued me (Luke 12:6-7), and loved me not because of my career, status, talents, or how good I am, but just because of who he is (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). I would never find that kind of love in anyone else in the world apart from God.
If you haven’t experienced that for yourself, or are trying to get reinspired about having a genuine friendship with God, study out the scriptures below to learn more about the kind of friend God is.
God is a friend who loves at all times
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.Proverbs 17:17 NIV
The Bible reminds us that a true friend is someone who will choose to love us at all times. Like my friend Scott, our friends can be a safe place when we feel overcome by adversity, storms, and even our own flaws. That’s the kind of friend God is to us too.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” )  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.  And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:35-39 NLT
This scripture teaches that no matter what we experience or go through, God’s love is unchanging. It is a love we can count on and rely on through all our highs and lows.
In college I joined a fraternity and built a lot of friendships around partying and having fun together. There were different times I experienced difficulties in college (break-ups, family troubles, failed tests), but I didn’t feel the support of these friends.
Later I learned that my friends could’ve been more supportive in these times, but the friend I really needed was God. He is the only one who can handle and love us through ALL our challenges and the emotions that come with them. That’s what makes him a special friend.
Pause and reflect
- What current troubles or challenges are you facing?
- When you go through tough times, do you talk to God about it or do you just try to tackle it yourself?
- Pray through any current challenges or adversity you’re facing and make a decision to let go and trust that God still loves you.
- Make a gratitude list of 10 ways you’ve seen God’s love for you. Put this on your phone or somewhere you can access it in the future, when you start to doubt God’s love.
God is a friend who values you
 For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place.  Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.Isaiah 43:3-4 NLT
I’ve spent a lot of time working with high school students, and the conversations I have had with them remind me that a lot of challenges in friendships stem from insecurity. Insecurity makes us feel uncertain about where we stand in a relationship and our value to the person we are trying to be friends with.
God is a friend who makes it clear what he thinks about us, so we don’t have to be insecure. God sees us as precious, honored, and worth trading for. He is a friend who helps us see our worth. He doesn’t just say it though, he shows it:
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.  This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.1 John 4:9-10 NLT
When God sent Jesus to die for us on the cross, it was evidence of how much God values us. What would you give up for your best friend – your car, your job, savings, your life? God gave up his son and Jesus gave up his life to take away our sins so that we could have eternal life and a close relationship with God.
God’s value of our friendship is clear from the Scriptures, but how much do we value a friendship with God?
Pause and reflect
- Do you believe God sees you as precious and valuable? Why or why not?
- How much value and importance do you place on building a friendship with God?
- Read Matt 26-28 and reflect on the sacrifice God made for you.
- Decide to make a sacrifice for God this week – cutting time on TV, Youtube, or another activity to spend more time together.
God is a friend who overlooks mistakes
Love overlooks the mistakes of others, but dwelling on the failures of others devastates friendships.Proverbs 17:9 – TPT
True friends see past our sins and weaknesses and love us for who we are. Forgiveness is a great weakness of mine. I often choose bitterness and resentment over reconciliation and letting go of offenses.
Thankfully, God is a more merciful friend than I am. The Bible tells us an incredible story about a father and son in Luke 15:11-32 that helps us understand God’s willingness to forgive. Let’s look at an excerpt below:
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’  So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.Luke 15:17-20 NIV
In this story, the father freely and completely welcomes home his lost son, despite the son’s selfish and reckless actions. God sees our mistakes and is filled with compassion, not condemnation. When we choose sin over God, he patiently waits for us to come back to be close. This loving example helps me want to be close to God and also helps me to be a more forgiving friend to the people in my life.
Pause and reflect
- How freely do you forgive when you are wronged or hurt in friendships?
- Who can you be this kind of friend to today?
- Read the entire story of the lost son in Luke 15.
We have to remember to let the Bible shape our view of God, instead of our emotions or experiences. We can often let experiences with church and people shape our view of God or base our view of God on how we feel on a given day. Rather, we need to let the Bible give us clarity on who God really is.
Study the books and articles below over the next few weeks to understand the kind of friendship God wants to have with you. When you do, you will begin to see him as a friend you want to know more and more.
Bible reading recommendations:
- Isaiah 40-55
- The book of Hosea
- Deep Spirituality devotional: Intimacy with God