The Mark of a True Friend

January 20, 2017

Proverbs 20:5

The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.


I will always remember the words of one of my mentors to me after a long and challenging conversation. He said, “John David, you are a very complex and complicated person,” to which he added, “and that’s about the nicest thing I can say about you.”

Whether he meant that as a compliment or not, the longer I live the more I know it is true. And if you are honest, it’s true about you too. We are complex, complicated people. We have the capacity for incredible goodness yet the possibility of profound self deception. Today’s text says as much,

“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters. . . .”

In short, at times it can be next to impossible for me to know the purposes of my own heart. I need help. I need wisdom. Left to myself, my own inner complexities can lead to a veritable hairball of confusion. You too? ;0)

“But one who has insight draws them out.”

What I need most is a person of insight. What I most need is a friend.

Years ago I read a book by Eugene Peterson (a literary mentor of mine) called Leap Over a Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians. In the book, Peterson walks through 1-2 Samuel and the life of David. In one of the chapters he writes about friendship through the lens of the relationship between Jonathan and David.

“Each of us has contact with hundreds of people who never look beyond our surface appearance. We have dealings with hundreds of people who the moment they set their eyes on us begin calculating what use we can be to them, what they can get out of us. We meet hundreds of people who take one look at us, make a snap judgment, and then slot us into a category so that they won’t have to deal with us as persons. They treat us as something less than we are; and if we’re in constant association with them, we become less. And then someone enters our life who isn’t looking for someone to use, is leisurely enough to find out what’s really going on in us, is secure enough not to exploit our weaknesses or attack our strengths, recognizes our inner life and understands the difficulty of living out our inner convictions, confirms what’s deepest within us. A friend.”

Then Peterson quoted the great Jewish theologian, Martin Buber.

The greatest thing any person can do for another is to confirm the deepest thing in him, in her—to take the time and have the discernment to see what’s most deeply there, most fully that person, and then confirm it by recognizing and encouraging it.

We are prone to think of “insight” as some kind of mystical quality possessed by the few. The truth? Insight comes to those willing to take the time to “see into” something or someone; people who will “take the time and have the discernment to see what is most deeply there.”

The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.

Those people are few and far between. The good news: you can be one of those kind of people today. I can too. It’s the greatest gift we can give to another.

I’ll see you tomorrow in Proverbs 21.


Abba Father, thank you for the gift of friendship. Thank you for your Son who said I no longer call you servants. I call you friends. Grace me to be a better friend to others—to listen deeply, to take the time to see into them, and to call forth their deepest and truest self. And bring those people into my life as well. I pray in Jesus name, Amen.


1. Who has been this kind of friend in your life?

2. Who have you been this kind of friend to?

3. How might I become a person of insight in this way?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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