Be a Jonathan: a New Perspective on Friendship

July 27, 2021  - By Rachel Dee

Be a Jonathan - on Friendship | Well-Watered Women Articles

In the span of two months, I said two contradictory statements to my husband. 

“I don’t think I can be a stay-at-home mom anymore.” 

“I think I just want to be a stay-at-home mom right now.” 

My patient husband always waits for me to unwrap these statements. He knows they’re likely the start of a “listen” and not a “fix it” conversation. That’s one thing ten years of marriage will teach you. Another thing that ten years of marriage will teach you is how to press in and speak truth even when your spouse doesn’t want a “fix it” conversation. My husband decided it was time for the latter. 

Longing for Friendship

Eight months earlier we had moved, and I transitioned from working full-time at a job I loved to a new city, a new house, our second baby, a new job for my husband, and a new full-time vocation for me as a stay-at-home parent. We wouldn’t recommend doing all of this at once. 

My tears flowed as I shared my deep sense of loneliness and isolation in this season of life. As I dug deep, I discovered that it wasn’t actually my life circumstances or my job choice that was causing this desire for change, but that I was longing for friendship. It also wasn’t the first time I had said these things. I knew loneliness would come with many of these changes—there are whole books written about loneliness in motherhood!—but it felt like I had done all that I could. 

I shared with him my unmet expectations and how my thoughts had caused me to question, “Shouldn’t I have a few new friends by now? Or a few invitations to playdates or out to dinner? Didn’t I give my number to a few people at church? Why hadn’t they made an effort to get to know me?”

But his response wasn’t exactly the sympathetic nod of agreement I thought I needed.  

Instead he said, “I think you need to learn to be a ‘Jonathan.’”

Relearning the Pursuit of Friendship

He was referencing the Old Testament friendship between Jonathan and David in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel. What could I learn from this story about friendship that applied to my current situation and attitude? Actually, quite a lot.

Jonathan and David had an unlikely friendship. We all know that David, a lowly shepherd, is anointed the future king of Israel and defeats Goliath in a battle with the Philistines in 1 Samuel 16 and 17. But then, surprisingly, he befriends Jonathan, King Saul’s son, who was presumably the next king of Israel. Jealousy or hatred could have easily marked their relationship, but instead, we watch Jonathan’s devotion to God outdo his desire for position or power (1 Sam. 18–31).

Scripture shows us that Jonathan is a unique kind of friend:

“Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul” (1 Sam. 18:3).

“And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David…” (1 Sam. 18:4).

“But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David” (1 Sam. 19:1). 

“Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Whatever you say, I will do for you’” (1 Sam. 20:4).

“And Jonathan, Saul's son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God” (1 Sam. 23:16).

Pursuing Others, Not Self

Scripture doesn’t record David serving Jonathan in these same ways. Seemingly, Jonathan was a man who gave to David more than he received. He championed, served, and was vastly loyal to him, even at great cost.

I was looking for someone to initiate a friendship with me. Many of us want others to pursue us—we want invitations to events and parties extended, and we all feel loved when people go out of their way to include us. But when we look at the example of Jonathan, we see a friendship marked by service and pursuit of others, not self. I needed to change my view of friendship from “why aren’t others befriending me?” to “how can I befriend someone else?”

An Important Endeavor

Jonathan offered unwavering support despite extraordinarily challenging and complicated circumstances: 

“David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul's son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, ‘Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this” (1 Sam. 23:15–17, emphasis mine).

The Oxford dictionary defines strengthened as “to make strong” or “to reinforce.” The New Living Translation translates this phrase as he “encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God.” Jonathan reminds David of what is true and shares his unwavering faith in God’s plan and faithfulness. As theologian John Piper puts it, Jonathan is a “horizontal means of God’s mercy” to David, which is the crux of Christian friendship. 

I slowly began to see my pursuit of friendship as a more important and different endeavor than I previously thought. Rather than looking to fill my calendar or make it on a guest list, I needed to shift my gaze to look for ways that I could serve and spiritually strengthen those who God had put in my path. As the author of Hebrews writes, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). I needed to elevate this goal in my Christian friendships. 

A Familiar Truth

David was saved by the sacrificial friendship of his friend. Who does this remind us of? In John 15:13, Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus doesn’t ask for anything in return or expect us to be without mistake. He champions, serves, and pursues us, and he sacrificed himself for us in the ultimate form of friendship. And because of this perfect friendship, we can extend this kind of friendship to others. 

Although loneliness still creeps in at times, my husband’s words echo in my mind: be a Jonathan. As I run to the perfect friend in Jesus, I find the strength to be a Jonathan to others. 

Meet the Author:

Rachel Dee lives in Columbus, Georgia and is most passionate about Jesus, being a wife to Matt, and being a momma to her two boys, Jack and Thomas. She enjoys being outside with her family, learning photography, and writing.

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  1. Holly says:

    This is so awesome to read. It was VERY timely, as I recently became a stay at home mom feeling all of the above written in the article. It was just yesterday I was too crying to my husband about feeling lonely and wanting friendships. Thank you for this encouragement!!

  2. Elizabeth Wesselhoff says:

    What a great word! Praise the Lord that he is our resource every portion of our days.

  3. Desirae says:

    I appreciate your article I however have often found myself feeling like I am not a valued friend if I am not useful to other people and that unfortunately has not been reciprocated back to me . It is often made me feel if I am not useful to someone else then I am not a good enough friend for someone else. People around me that at least know me well know that I can be very useful God has blessed me with lots of different types of skills and talents. When I was searching and praying to find a church after moving for me and my family I was so desperately disappointed. I was very often met with so-and-so mentioned you might be visiting our church I’m so excited because I hear that you can do… it was always about what can you do for me. It was never about someone else being a friend to me just what they could get out of me . Anyway that’s a long story I still appreciate your article I have felt a deep sense of loneliness as he described for the past four years or so as it struggles with health issues that were unexpected and have deeply altered what I knew is my normal life. We all deal with stress differently and I have continue to be faithful in my relationship with God and cling to his promises and pray and worship and trust God even in this difficult time. However anyone I was able to college friend has withdrawn themselves from me probably because everyone Dalton copes with stress differently and my health situation is incredibly overwhelming to other people. Again that’s another long story. It is discouraging and lonely to reach out to people by text or cards or phone calls checking in with other people asking them here are you OK hey can I pray for you how are your kids doing how is your family I never have those thoughtful gestures reciprocated back to me . I am always call the kind and thoughtful person I’m still looking for a friend who staff on coming back to me . Then what can I do for your perspective has I feel backfired on me. Anyway I apologize for the extremely long comment or message I just came across your Instagram and website today so I’ll continue to read through your website and see all of the resources that you’ve provided thank you for listening.

    • Hey Desirae! I am so sorry to hear that you are in such a lonely and difficult season, with your health and with friendships. I will stop now to pray that the Lord gives you the encouragement to continue to reach out to others, even when it’s not reciprocated, the rest when you feel weary, and the truth that what you have to offer someone else does not define how worthy you are of friendship 🧡 you are loved and cherished by the Lord, friend!

  4. Karen says:

    Hi Rachel – I so relate to your story – I often expected people to pursue me and didn’t have the deep friendship I longed for as a young mom! I pray God will allow you to see the people in your path whom you can love and will love you back! I finally discovered volunteering was a great way to meet friends ans build friendships around a common passion! Blessings to you!

  5. Whitney Gower says:

    Beautiful Rachel! I feel all of this! We moved with a 4 year old, a 1 month old to a new job for my husband and be staying at home and then a couple months later Covid hit. We are just the last few months getting out and I have felt that loneliness. Trying to be a Jonathan. Praying for you!

  6. Chamaine Snell says:

    What an awesome perspective! I am in a different season as my boys are in college…but this season is lonely too. Going to apply your suggestion!

  7. Glenda says:

    Love love this !

  8. Angela Bell says:

    I needed this today. I’ve moaned over just this situation for years. My patient husband filled the gap and hung out with me, but now he has been gone a year and I’m in a new city and new church and it’s just so hard sometimes. But, your words ring true so I will carry on. I pray I can be more of a Jonathan,to honor Christ and to honor my husband.

  9. Angela Bell says:

    I needed this today. I’ve moaned over just this situation for years. My patient husband filled the gap and hung out with me, but now he has been gone a year and I’m in a new city and new church and it’s just so hard sometimes. But, your words ring true so I will carry on. I pray I can be more of a Jonathan, to honor Christ and to honor my husband.

  10. Monica says:

    Rachel-This so spoke to my heart! Do you have anymore resources about the life and relationship of David and Jonathan? I’d kinda like to create some kind of Bible Study on this.

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