When I think of friendship, I think of Jonathan and David. The story unfolds in 1 Samuel, with two young men growing up in the same home and forming a natural bond. This seems pretty normal, but Jonathan and David’s story is far from ordinary.
Jonathan was the king’s son. He should have been next in line for the crown, however God had already appointed David as the next king. This alone could have been reason for Jonathan to hate David, but we read in 1 Samuel 18:3, “And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.”
There would have been plenty of opportunities for Jonathan to let jealousy, hate, or bitterness in his heart as David won battles and rose up in the ranks of the army. Instead, we find Jonathan committed to this friendship through it all, even as his own father goes crazy and threatens to kill David.
Jonathan could have led King Saul right to David and probably would have taken over for his father once David was out of the picture, but he stays true to his covenant and friendship. Jonathan pleads for his friend’s life, warns him of Saul’s plots, and risks the wrath of the insane king, even having to dodge a spear thrown at him.
In our world, we often see friendship take a back seat when one person has a chance at success. Whether in academics, sports, or the arts, students have lots of opportunities to compete and succeed, and relationships can suffer as one friend makes the team or gets cast in the play.
It is not only kids who suffer from this – our children are watching when we express resentment over a friend’s promotion or let our own success go to our head and forget about valuable friendships.
It’s important to start modeling the value of friendships to our children at a very early age. Friends are often God’s way of helping us stay close to Him, both in the good and bad times. We need friends to rejoice and mourn with us. We need friends who look to us for reminders of His hope and friends who point us back to Him when we’ve forgotten. Quite simply, God wants us to love Him and love others. He made us for relationship and we are not to live this life without it.
The story of Jonathan and David is one I repeat often to our boys, but there are plenty of other examples to point out. I think of the women’s 5000m race at the 2016 Olympics, where both Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin fell. Nikki stopped to help Abbey up, but then fell herself. Abbey then stopped to pull Nikki up and encourage her to keep going. Either one could have got up, ignored the other, and tried to get back in the race, but they put the other person’s needs above their desire to win. Our whole family was inspired by their selflessness and friendship.
The picture book, Gobi, tells the story of ultrarunner Dion Leonard and the dog he discovered during a race through the Gobi Desert and is a wonderful story for younger children. Through fun illustrations and inspiring text, we learn how Gobi lifted Dion’s spirits during a tough race and how Dion took care of Gobi through the heat, across a river, and even shared his scarce resources with him. Children will love the sweet little dog and find the value in friendship through this story!
Our children are never too young or too old to be taught to value friendships above worldly success. Current culture may push the idea of doing anything necessary to get ahead, but we have the opportunity right now to lead our children toward God’s plan for us to love people well, through these real-life stories and our own powerful example!
How are you teaching your kids that friendship is more important than success?