Somewhere between 3:30 and 4:30 this morning I had a dream. In the dream I was trying to remember a scripture verse. “______ are the wounds of a friend.” I was using my Bible app in the dream, inserting different words in the blank, but could not find the verse. I tried over and over again to no avail. Then, as I was coming out of my dream sleep state it came to me, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…,” Proverbs 27:16. Was that right? Was I waking up with the verse I had been dreaming about? Truthfully, all I wanted to do was go back to sleep, but the verse and reference were playing on repeat in my head. Finally, I grabbed my cell phone and looked it up. It was indeed the Proverbs 27, but verse 6 instead of 16.
My first response was, “Cool God! It would be easier for me to memorize chapter and verse references if You would bring them in my dreams.” My second response was, “Why are You bringing this verse to me in the middle of the night?” As I lay in bed, a barrage of questions came to me. What does this verse really mean? Am I about to be wounded? If so, will this change my response to it? Am I about to wound someone else? I really don’t want to. Was this verse to prepare me to speak the truth faithfully in a difficult situation? Of this I am sure, there must be a purpose for this verse to be embedded in my dreams.
The whole verse in the NKJV reads, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Oh how I wanted to zero in on those deceitful kisses of the enemy, making a case against him, and uncovering his plots against us. I was all fired up and ready to go after it until I remembered that this part of the verse wasn’t in my dream at all. Like it or not, I was going to have to search out the understanding of “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” According to Gesenius’s Lexicon, faithful means upright, “proceeding from sincerity of mind.” Wounds literally or figuratively mean wounds or bruises. Friend means human love for one another.
As I prayed over this verse, I felt certain that it had been misused for centuries as an excuse to use harsh words or even physical abuse to exert control over other’s thoughts and behaviors all in the name of conveying truth. This would be completely inconsistent with the word friend used in the verse though.
It is hard to approach this verse as if to decide how others should treat us because we have no control over their behavior. I decided the only way for us to truly understand this verse is to determine how we are to embrace the verse and pour it out into our relationships with others. As friends who bring faithful wounds, we must be operating in love. As friends, in sincerity of heart and mind, we must examine our own motives to be certain that what we have to say is in the other’s best interest. We may need to wait for the right time and place. It is usually best to take some time to think it through. Does it really need to be said…all of it? Some of us who are chattier than others may need a predetermined line of when to stop talking; say what needs to be said and then shut up.
Of course there are times we must act quickly. Just a couple of days ago I was at a picnic at a friend’s farm. All of the children had been made aware of the barbed wire fence between the house yard and field we were in. The children had done great at avoiding the fence all afternoon. Yet, as the sun began to set, the fence seemed to disappear in the darkness. I am not in the habit of yelling at the top of my lungs at other people’s children, but when I saw three little guys headed toward the barbed wire fence, I could not be silent. I started to move toward them but knew I couldn’t get to them fast enough. One little guy started to run and I yelled at him, “Stop!!! The fence!” I like to think it slowed him down so that he didn’t get seriously injured. I knew my yelling was necessary and unquestionably done in concern for the little boys. No one questioned my yelling, and even if they did, I would not have cared because it was about protecting the boys. That is where faithful wounds must come from, concern for and protection of the other person. Sometimes, as the sun goes down, as situations seem to get darker, people lose sight of the “fence.” God may be calling on us to point out the fence.
If we typically live a life free of a judgmental or a critical spirit, God can use us to respond quickly in situations which may release words that wound for a moment but bring breakthrough in the big picture. If we tend to battle with a judgmental or critical spirit, we should not act quickly to correct or use any words that would wound. We should step back to consider our heart motive and determine if we love or care for the other person enough to speak into their life. Remember the verse says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” If you are not operating as a friend, just go back to your prayer closet. Are you just trying to fix people? Then wait for your heart to align with the concept of friend. If you truly care enough to warn a friend of a potential train wreck ahead, then proceed. However, can you focus more on a re-routing of the train to a new track than on the potential train wreck? If so, then go for it. Think about how this applies to people who are in unhealthy relationships or work situations. We can’t just tell them how awful or dangerous a relationship is. We need to paint a picture of the beauty of God-centered, loving relationships that await them. We can’t just tell a person their employer is taking advantage of them or vice versa. We have to tell them about God’s desire for them to work in a healthy, safe environment or how honoring their employer will bring blessing in their life.
When we use words that wound, then we must use words that empower our friend past the wound. If I have missed the point and I was supposed to prepare us receive faithful wounds, then process words that come your way through the same lens. Did the wound come from a friend? Did the wound or words come to help empower you to step up to your potential, to become more Christ-like, or operate in more love? Then, receive it, grow through it, and thank your friend.