In an article entitled, "Enjoying the Enduring Magic of Long-Term Friendship," Katherine Lowry lists several important ingredients found in friendships that are able to last for many years.
1. Going through hard times together
The people she surveyed had been through depressions, wars, illnesses, death of spouses and parents together. Hard times are the cement where true friendships are solidified.
Paul touches on some of the experiences that create friendship:
"10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." (Romans 12:10-15)
Vs. 10, devotion and praise offered to each other. Vs. 15, sharing the good and bad times.
Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
Bearing each other's burdens. Friendship finds its feet in swirling waters, and long-term friendships are forged in tribulation.
2. Sharing food and hospitality together
contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. (Romans 12:13)
She also found that friendships are not created in a vacuum. People who had maintained long term friendships worked at being together often around the dinner table in each other's homes. The sharing of food together often is a major ingredient in creating a life-time bond of friendship. It is difficult to create friendship without this practice and note that when we disfellowship someone, it is the first thing that we do to sever ties. I Corinthians 5:11 says, "…not even to eat with such a one."
3. Forgiving each other
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)
No matter how great the relationship begins, there will always be a moment when you will fail your friend or your friend will disappoint or offend you. What destroys the friendship at this point is not the offence or the failure, but rather the inability or unwillingness to forgive each other. For friendships to last a lifetime, each person should be realistic and expect failures and disappointments in the relationship and be willing and ready to offer forgiveness.
I have found that friendship grows stronger and deeper and more precious every time the cycle of forgiveness and conciliation is experienced. My best friends are those I have forgiven or who have forgiven me… a couple times!
I have found this especially to be so in my relationship to Jesus Christ. Jesus is a friend who not only stands by me in troubles times; constantly nourishes me through His Spirit and Word, but also draws me closer and closer to Him in loving friendship every time He forgives my many sins, and is always present when I worship.