From early childhood buddies to friends I met in college and beyond, I am very thankful for the community of friends God has put in my life. Diverse in their personalities, careers, ages, and talents, I am blessed to know each one.

In times of great joy, friends give you people to celebrate with. Birthday parties, concerts, road-trips, tv marathons, dancing, and brunch-ing, the list could go on and on. The occasions we have to celebrate remind us that friends bring light into our lives. Through times like these, friends add to the sweetness of life and serve as an example of God’s great love and delight in us. Looking at my friends, I can remember and appreciate times of great joy with each of them. From bigger experiences such as going on a mission trip to southern Africa, to laughing and quoting our favorite movies, friends allow for the grand and the everyday to be special.

In my life, I have found that equally, or perhaps more importantly, friends are a strong support in times of great darkness and grief. When we experience loss, stress, anxiety or worry, friendships provide space to process and recover. Whether your friend is going through a difficult time, or you yourself are experiencing pain, strong friendships hold the ability to give and receive sustenance.

Shauna Niequist writes my favorite description of friendship in her devotional book, Savor: “ I believe friendship is God’s greatest evidence of himself here on earth. Everyone needs a home team: a go-to, show-up, middle-of-the-night, come-in-without-knocking tribe that gets us through when things fall apart.”

Currently, I live very far away from the majority of my friends. While we are not always the most scheduled about staying in-touch, there is a mutual understanding of how important we are to each other. When you are able to support one another from a great distance, friendships grow a deeper level of trust.

I would encourage you to let your friends know how much they mean to you. A note, a call, a text – any and all expressions of gratitude and love are a gift to those who receive them.

Post by Madeline, currently interning with the IJM in Chiang Mai, Thailand