9-10 It's better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there's no one to help, tough! 11 Two in a bed warm each other. Alone, you shiver all night. 12 By yourself you're unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 The Message)
No road is more lonely to travel than that which is traveled alone. I have no doubt in my mind about this as I have tried the journey both ways! I have tried to live isolated, insulated from the worries and work of relationship. I have also enjoyed the ecstasy of the good times, and the frustration of the bad times, while traveling through life with a companion for my journey. Making relationship work is hard stuff! No matter whether we are speaking of the companion we work alongside forty hours a week, or the one we come home to each evening that we have pledged our lives to, it is hard work!
Solomon was said to be the wisest man ever - given a double-portion of wisdom by God. That said, even he struggled with the battle between going it alone and being actively engaged in meaningful relationship with another. In fact, he is the one sharing these words above. His message to his sons was simple - don't try to go it alone! It is a pretty barren, cold, and undesirable place to be.
Recently, I have been encountered by the fact that there are people all around me facing the challenges of "going it alone" - whether it is due to the death of a spouse, the break-up of a marriage, or the seemingly "wrong" choices one has made. Each of these people has a unique "challenge" ahead of them. One must learn that the life-long companion that always filled their days is now gone. Another must navigate through the unpleasantness of dividing a lifetime's worth of memories and accumulations. Still another, standing in a place of regret, must deal with the shame of wrong decisions and the fear of what lies ahead.
The most telling part of our passage today is this: By yourself you're unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. It is often the lesson we learn in the toughest of times in our lives. Being "unprotected" is like being out in the open in the height of hunting season - one wrong move and you are fired upon from who knows how many unknown directions!
Friend - what does this really mean? First, I think it means one who comes alongside - that one that is there as a support in the bad times and right there to celebrate with us in the good. Second, a friend is a confidant - one we can trust with our deepest thoughts and our silliest ideas. Third, a friend is an accomplice! Have you ever heard the term, "This is my partner in crime"? Well, I think we need one who will partner with us in the good and the bad.
The term "partner" has taken on new meaning in our day and age - meaning one who we are in a sexual relationship with outside of marriage. This is NOT what I am referring to here. A partner is one who is invested in our life. They have "skin in the game", so to speak. They share in the ups and downs. They come to know the secrets of our success and the lessons of our failures. In other words, they share in the risks and the benefits of relationship. Solomon reminds us that we are blessed beyond measure when we have one who we can call "friend"!
Who makes up the "cords" of your friendship rope today? Who have you "partnered" with in being an "investor" in their life? Perhaps as you've read this today you have realized that you really are standing "alone" - a single strand of cord that can easily be broken. If that is the case, I pray that God will begin to direct you to those that will "add strength" to your rope! Being "by yourself" really leaves you wide open for attack - being in relationship with another helps you to face even the worst of times in your life.