Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
I have been thinking a lot about this verse over the last month. It has taken on a new meaning for me. In the past I have read it as if it only referred to the Lord laying down his life for us. It seemed too unlikely and improbable that this verse referred to us mere humans. I found it difficult to imagine the average human sacrificing their lives for a friend. Not that we don’t have a great capability to love others. I immediately think of the love between a parent and their child. But to love a friend to the point of sacrificing their own life, I’m not so sure it would be that easy. I love my friends, but to die for them, I have to be honest and say I’d have to really think about it.
But then my husband was diagnosed with cancer. It may have even started before the diagnosis. Maybe it started to become clear what this verse implied during the final days before my Dad died in April. Friend after friend began to love on us through prayers, phone calls and visits. Then we got the diagnosis “double hit”. We left the doctor’s office quietly. We resolved to be brave and courageous, to trust God, to be strong. We sat in the car silent, trying to process the idea that our world had just taken a huge detour. Our future seemed uncertain. Everything stopped right there in the car that day. We held hands and prayed. Then we proceeded to try and continue our lives as normal. But we were shaking on the inside. We smiled. We went to church. Then the pain became unbearable. For a few weeks, he would sit in his recliner at night, the lights all down low, struggling with the intense pain. No amount of morphine seemed to give him relief. I would sit on the couch in the dark holding my breath. I could do nothing to help him. We found ourselves in the hospital on serious pain med’s, then surgery, then surgery again. It was then that this verse began to ring in my head. Person after person called or texted to see how he was. Dinners were brought to us as friends sacrificed their own time and energies in providing a meal to us. Our yard has been maintained for the last two months by dear friends laying down their own lives for us. Another friend brought faith t-shirts made by her company to our door as a special gift, giving us a profit she could have made. A sunshine basket appeared on our doorstep full of everything yellow to brighten our day. The sunday school teachers in the student department rallied around us, giving their own money to purchase gift cards to restaurants to help us with meals as we go back and forth to the hospital. Tuesday my big guy goes back into the hospital for a week of chemo, his third, and the love and the laying down of lives still continues. We know that our friends and even those who don’t know us but share our faith, have lifted up his name to the Lord for healing. I know that my friends have prayed for strength for me. I know that we are loved by our friends and family because we could not have walked this far without their constant prayers and reaching out.
This verse doesn’t necessarily refer to dying…..dying to self maybe….but not physical dying. It means laying down the demands of our own lives to be there for a friend. To help them in times of need, of sickness, of difficulties. It means reaching out and wrapping your arms around that friend who is trying hard to be brave and do it on their own and allowing them to break down and shed tears of fear and uncertainty, then reminding them that He is faithful and that He is trustworthy. This verse is way more than the dramatic sacrificing life for life. It is the solid, steadfast love of a friend, whether close or not, to sacrifice time and energy in their own life to love on and meet the need of a friend.
So today. Let me ask you, have you lay down your life for a friend? I am asking myself this daily: “Have I chosen to experience no greater love and lay down my own life for a friend?” We may be in the middle of a stormy year in the Armstrong family, we have gone from storm to storm, but we can still look around us to lay down our own life for a friend. I don’t want to be defined by this stormy year, I want to be defined by Christ’s love living and active in my life.