(This week’s emphasis is compassion. But today’s blog takes us back to last week when we focused on spiritual friendships. Think about how the two disciplines fit together. How can better friendships and more compassion help us become people who make a positive difference?)

In your world, who is Jesus? Is He the one you talk to when there’s no foreseeable joy? Is He the one who gives you peace when the world seems to be taking your attention in so many opposing directions? Is He the wish-granter in the sky that’s got your back whenever you think you need Him?

I think as believers we’ve probably all put Jesus in one of those categories at some point or another. We forget just how great He is compared to what we desire in the moment or we’re unable to overcome the conviction we feel to be better people so we get confused about who He really is. Have we made Him the distant and aloof dream-maker who wants to make our dreams come true, or is He the angry judge who’s never quite satisfied with our motives and attempts at being right? It’s easy to assume things about who Jesus really is — we’ve got to be careful here.

For me, I put so many misconceptions on Jesus. Because I have expectations about how my life should be, I assume when they don’t come true that He must be dissatisfied with me about something I’ve come up short in. But He’s not there to grant my wishes. In fact, He is there to save me from myself and help me do God’s will instead of my own.

In a world where mentally escaping reality is as easy as a few swipes to the left or right, could we be just crazy enough to think that Jesus Himself wants to be friends with someone as broken and unsteady as us? I think about the first day of Kindergarten. “Will you be my friend?” Yeah He will; every time. It might take just as much childlike faith to ask Him though.

He’s not the only one. We’re called to have friendships with other people as well. Instead of a thousand social media “Friends” who at the end of the day add no real value to our lives, what if we took the time and effort to invest in a few real friendships that actually cost us something? We don’t need to push back at the thought of friendships that have got to be worked for. For a long time, I thought working for a friendship was a dumb idea. I thought it should just be natural and if not I should leave. That’s no way to go about it.

All friendships, in order to be healthy, require time. Think about how you make new friendships and then do those things consistently to maintain older ones. It doesn’t have to be that complicated — a phone call, a text, spending some time together after work — no matter what it is, consistency is key.

The more spiritual our friendships get, the more time they may require from us when we’re away from each other. You know you’ve got someone’s back spiritually when you think about them enough to pray for them when they’re not around. Are you interested in your friends dreams, goals, and hopes or are they just there to help you pass the time.

Friendship doesn’t have to be so serious of a matter though. Sometimes it’s playing Fortnite late at night and celebrating a big win, or your first kill if you’re not quite a ninja in training like Jon Campbell and Josh Hafner. We don’t need to doubt that those times are genuine and real and even spiritual. Any time you step into someone’s life and offer genuine kindness you’re operating in true friendship.

Most of all, I think you can tell who your friends are by who you are willing to open up to. In most cases we will only be willing to open up with people who have proven themselves trustworthy. Be careful here-everyone doesn’t need to know everything about you. Let God lead you to friends who you can trust.

I think we start with a fair assessment of the friendships we have. Are we being the type of friend we want others to be to us? Are our lives truly any better because we know each other, or are we just there to numb each other with jokes and make sure we don’t get bored?