“As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let’s cross to the other side of the lake. So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). (Mark 4:35-36)
Many people I know can look back at their lives and wonder what happened to that friend who was so important to them at one time, and now they are no longer part of their life. Me, too. Then I read this passage in Mark and I began to understand.
In this story we see Jesus telling His disciples to row Him across the Sea of Galilee. Perhaps they had an idea they were headed to Gentile territory, but they certainly didn’t know they would visit burial caves and witness Jesus heal a man who had a legion of demons living in him.
But that’s not my point. What interests me in this passage is the way other boats followed, but we have no record of those people getting out of their boats and accompanying Jesus to the cemetery. And from what I can see, there was nothing preventing them from going onshore with Jesus. I believe this teaches us an important and comforting lesson: Not everyone who says they are a follower of Jesus is willing to go where Jesus is leading you.
When I was in Bible College, I had a friend who was very instrumental in my life. He was older than I was and raised in a Christian home—an advantage I did not have. I depended upon his experience with the Lord, his wisdom regarding the ways of the world and his godly counsel. He was one of the few people who wholeheartedly supported my decision to leave Southern California and join a monastery in Eureka Springs, AR. Later when I was praying about marrying Barbara, he was one of the friends I relied upon to guide my thinking and help me understand what I going to face as a married man. He said, “She loves you. Marry her.” And I did.
Shortly after I started my Master’s degree, this friend stopped being my friend. He cut off all communication with me and wouldn’t talk to Barbara or me. Eventually, he left his wife and started his life over in another part of the country.
This has bothered me for many years. Every few years he will text me or send an email, but fifteen years later, he still will not talk to me. I respect his decision and do not try to contact him. His ex-wife tells me what he thinks of me, but that’s all I know and all I need to know at this time. I finally came to understand that Jesus was leading Barbara and me in a direction—a direction this onetime friend was not willing to follow. He could no longer be my mentor and confident, because what I was going to experience as a disciple of Christ did not include him.
This gives me a bit of comfort, knowing it may not have been anything I did, but something God did.
Most of us can look back and wonder what happened to that important friend we once had. We remember it as a significant relationship, one we could see God’s hand orchestrating, supplying us with what we needed as a young Christian, guiding our thoughts and actions into a better understanding of God’s ways. Then slowly, or in my case, suddenly, that person is no longer there. God was calling us to a place others could not or would not follow.
Abraham experienced a similar situation as he prepared to obey God by sacrificing his only son Isaac. He told his servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” (Gen. 22:5).
Neither my former friend nor the servants of Abraham were bad people. I believe my friend is still serving God in his own capacity; he’s just not doing that by my side, and that is okay. Conversely, perhaps God led my friend in a direction I could not follow.
I write this hoping it brings you some comfort and insight into your own former relationships. It took me a while, but I no longer carry the pain of a friendship that no longer exists. I choose to believe that what I had was what I needed, and now I no longer need what I had. “The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21).