The Ache for Friendship

The Bible’s first pages show our inescapable need for relationships. Several times the creation story in Genesis 1 repeats the phrase “and God saw that it was good” (1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). It climaxes with the seventh occurrence: “It was very good” (v. 31). Then in chapter 2, we read of one thing that is not good: “It is not good that the man should be alone” (2:18). Adam, the first human, lives, but he lives in isolation. And that’s a problem. As Martin Luther put it, "God created man for society and not for solitude."[1]Thus we can each make this statement our own: it is not good that [your name] should be alone. 

God announces Adam’s problem and then parades the animals before him. Why this, and why now? So that Adam might feel his need for community. The animal parade made a point: apparently pets alone won’t do. Even “man’s best friend” passed by without special notice. This was because Adam didn’t need a pet; he needed another person. Animals are special, but human friendship is of a higher order.

This takes place before sin enters the world. That’s significant. Satan has not yet slithered in, the forbidden fruit has no fingerprints, and Adam’s conscience remains clear. The first problem in human history, the first problem on the pages of Scripture, the first problem in any human life, was not sin—it was solitude. 

This means that the not-goodness of Adam’s aloneness was not a result of his fallenness. Adam stood there in Eden without fault, yet he also stood alone and therefore incomplete. He was missing something essential enough to warrant the divine declaration of “not good.” Adam, untouched by sin, needed a friend. Every soul reverberates with the echoes of this Edenic ache for friendship. It’s an ancient and primal longing. We are inescapably communal. 

The opening chapters of Genesis cast a vision of the good life, full of shalom—a Hebrew concept referring in its fullest sense to flourishing, joy, and harmony. And this shalom exists between God, humanity, and creation. Each sphere of the physical world—land, sea, and sky—teems with life. Yet Adam stands in the middle of this exuberant wonder world—alone. Adam has life, and that’s a start. But he also needs community. 

The Divine Affirmation of Friendship

So, on the sixth day God made Adam and he made Eve—the first friendship—and behold, it was very good. 

It was Eve’s presence that finally made the creation “very good.” Consider when she arrives in the story. The creation account has two parts: part one overviews the entire seven-day creation week (Gen. 1:3–2:4). On the sixth day of that week, God made humanity—both Adam and Eve. Only after the completion of the sixth day, with Adam and Eve both created, do we hear the climactic “very good” (1:31). 

After this, part two of the creation account rewinds back into the midst of that sixth day and zooms into God’s creation of Adam and then Eve. There, in the middle of the sixth day, God creates Adam first and then, before he creates Eve, he announces, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (2:18). 

In other words, the order of events is: (1) God creates Adam, (2) God announces that it is “not good,” (3) God creates Eve, and (4) now, with Adam and Eve together, everything is “very good.” Here’s the point: as the creation week moves along, the whole creation is not pronounced “very good” until God addresses the one thing that is not good—Adam’s isolation. This shows us that a world without friendship is not complete; it’s not yet very good. 

You may be asking one or two questions at this point. 

First, isn’t marriage God’s answer to Adam’s aloneness problem? In other words, aren’t marriages (in particular) and not human relationships (in general) God’s provision for Adam’s solitude? We do learn that Eve’s role as a spouse is an essential provision for Adam. After God created Adam and Eve, he commissioned them to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (1:28). Adam could not fulfil this task on his own, and God provided marriage in order to fulfil this mission of multiplication. 

However, when God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone,” he didn’t just highlight Adam’s need for a wife but also the general problem of man’s aloneness. Eve’s presence solved this problem in two ways: First, she met Adam’s need for companionship. Yes, as a wife, but also as a friend. Marriages are ideally the deepest of friendships. The bride in Song of Solomon declares, “This is my beloved and this is my friend” (Song 5:16). Second, Eve solved the problem of humanity’s isolation by multiplying society with Adam. Eve became the bridge between one isolated man and a populated globe. Through Eve, humanity would fill the earth with community. So, Eve met Adam’s need for companionship, and she also provided the means of creating a world of friendship. 

The other question you may be asking is this: Why did Adam need someone else when he already had God? The first question was essentially: Isn’t marriage enough? And now the second is like it: Isn’t God enough? Does this not turn friendship into idolatry, as though we need something else besides God to be satisfied or complete? 

This is an important question. From one perspective, God is enough. Take everything away but Christ, and we still have everything. 

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you. . . . 

God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Ps. 73:25–26) 

"Foes may hate and friends disown me, Show Thy face and all is bright."[2]And yet there stood Adam, with the great Friend and every noble pleasure, and it was not good. 

Why? Because God made us to fully enjoy him as creatures.[3] In other words, we experience God in a way that fits with how he made us. He made us as humans, and we experience pleasure in human, creaturely ways. We enjoy God, then, in the way that humans enjoy God. And one way in which we enjoy him as humans is through his gifts—and chief among them is friendship. We honor God when we receive this with gratitude. 

We thank God for friendship, we treasure God above friendship, and we enjoy God through friendship. 


Content taken from Made for Friendship: The Relationship That Halves Our Sorrows and Doubles Our Joys by Drew Hunter, ©2018. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org

Notes

  1. ^ Martin Luther, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, ed. Theodore G. Tappert (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 95. 
  2. ^ Henry Francis Lyte, “Jesus I My Cross Have Taken” (1825). 
  3. ^ There are other important ways to answer this question as well. For example, God made us in such a way that his created gifts are a true means of strength and encouragement. With God as our highest joy and deepest source of satisfaction, he nevertheless made us so that we—as creatures—experience renewal through various created means. Food, water, sleep, relationships—all of these bring necessary renewal to our whole, embodied selves. Our physical bodies, our mental faculties, our emotional dispositions—all are interrelated and dependent on God’s good, created gifts. 
Photo of Drew Hunter

Drew Hunter

Drew Hunter (MA, Wheaton College) is the teaching pastor at Zionsville Fellowship in Zionsville, Indiana. He previously served as a minister for young adults at Grace Church of DuPage and taught religious studies at College of DuPage. Drew and his wife, Christina, live in Zionsville, Indiana, and have four children.‚Äč

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