It has been three years since the coronavirus pandemic. I have been surprised at my response to the coverage of the anniversary in the media. Last week, while watching a documentary on the first moments of lockdown, I unexpectedly burst into tears. All of our experiences are different, but there is undoubtedly lots of trauma to be processed.

The events of three years ago play in my memory like grainy camcorder footage. PE with Joe, queues for toilet roll, news of trips to Barnard Castle, clapping on doorsteps and daily government updates. ‘Next slide please.’ I wince as I recall the vernacular that dominated my Twitter feed in the unprecedented ‘new normal’. Before March 2020 I would have assumed an R-number was something I had missed in GCSE maths, furlough was something to do with agriculture, and Jonathan Van Tam played football for the Netherlands.

But for me, the nostalgia ends there. Like many, I had a horrible 2020. My first book as an author was published the week that all the bookshops closed. And then we found out that my mum’s cancer was terminal. She died on 8th June. Two things got me through: faith in Jesus and friendship. I will always remember with gratitude God’s faithfulness and who was there for me.

Looking back is important. But hope is about looking forward, and I believe that friendship gives us an excellent standpoint from which to gaze expectantly into the future.

In life, two types of friendship are needed, we need to make friends with others, and we need to make friends with God.

Friendship with others is astonishingly powerful. It has profoundly positive effects on our mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Even if you eat badly, do no exercise and neglect other areas of your physical health, but have good friends, you will live longer than someone who is socially isolated. It really is better to eat kebabs with friends than salad on your own! (For the record, I am not suggesting your physical health is unimportant – our bodies are temples and need looking after!)

We should not be surprised by these findings. We are formed by a Father who crafted us for connection. In the first pages of the Bible we read that eight times the Creator appreciates the virtues of what he has made, before stating something is not good. What is less than perfect?

He says, ‘It is not good for man to be alone’ (Genesis 2:18).

Cultivating great relationships should fill you with hope. By doing so, you will be extending your physical lifespan, as well as increasing the quality of your present days. Don’t miss this gift of hope that God has given you. Be wise and generous in giving it to others.

But ultimate hope is found in a friendship with God. Before my mum died in that fourth month of lockdown, she recorded a short video to be played at her funeral. She always wanted the last word. In it, she beautifully described how her friendship with Jesus was giving her comfort in her present storm and certainty of a heavenly future.

Easter makes it possible for us to be friends with God. As His arms are outstretched in self-sacrifice on a cruel wooden cross, Jesus is the epitomic example of true friendship. As His soul cries, ‘It is finished,’ Jesus absorbs the power of our sin and selfishness, meaning that reconciliation and relationship are possible with the King of the universe. And when crucifixion cannot contain Him, when death defeated dare not destroy Him, His resurrection invites us to a new life, free from our frailties and failings, and relationships reborn.

We were created to know and be known. The open arms of Christ on the cross mean the hand of the God of the universe reaches out to us in friendship. Whether you accept His friend request or not is the most important decision you will ever make.

Whatever your past, today may you know hope for your future. But may you know, despite the individualistic narrative of our world, that you don’t do so alone. In your friendships with others, may you pursue depth over superficiality and quality over quantity. And may you accept God’s invitation of friendship and invest your time in this relationship.

It really is a matter of life and death.



Phil Knox is the evangelism and missiology senior specialist at the Evangelical Alliance and the author of Story Bearerand recently published The Best of Friends.


The Best of Friends

Friendship is one of the best things ever created.

It is unparalleled as a building block of society, a universal theme in great literature and film, and has a huge impact on our mental health, wellbeing and happiness. But many of us are lonely or feel suffocated by the pressures of life and quantity of relationships we have to maintain. Now, more than ever, we need better, deeper friendships. We need the best of friends.

Full of practical advice, humour and wisdom, Phil Knox shows us how to choose our friends wisely and maintain lasting and meaningful relationships.

Published February 2023 (IVP), £10.99

Photo by Samsung UK on Unsplash


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