Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

friendship Archive



November 2021

The agony of antagonism

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

There are two types of characters in every story - the protagonist and the antagonist. Learn more on hopereflected.com

Character Development 101

One of the essential elements taught in any story-writing class is that of character development. Generally, there are two types of characters in a story: The protagonist – who is usually the star, the good guy, the one we’re rooting for, and the antagonist – who is usually the bad guy, the villain, the one working against the protagonist.

Sounds kind of like real life, doesn’t it? We’re always living lesson after lesson of our own character development, and God tends to teach us through the other characters that He brings into our lives.

The word antagonist comes from the Latin antagonista, meaning “competitor, opponent, rival” or “one who contends with another”. Anti means “against” and agon means “a struggle, contest”, and is where we get our present-day word agony. Appropriate, as it can be agonizing dealing with an antagonist.

God tends to develop our character by the other characters that He brings into our lives. Read more of The agony of antagonism on hopereflected.com

Provoked and purposefully poked

Antagonists typically provoke someone of whom they’re jealous, resentful, or they just don’t like. In the case of Elkanah’s two wives, Hannah and Peninnah, Peninnah knew that Hannah was barren and she continuously contended with her about this. Even though Peninnah had children and Hannah was barren, Elkanah gave Hannah “a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah” (v. 5). Peninnah was jealous, and because of her resentment, Peninnah preyed upon Hannah’s weakness and “provoked her sore, for to make her fret,” (v. 6). It wasn’t that Peninnah antagonized Hannah once, no, the Bible says, “so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her;” (v. 7). Hannah was so deeply affected by this antagonism that “she wept, and did not eat.” (v. 7). Can’t we all relate? Chances are you have someone in your life who knows something that really bothers you, and they purposefully poke you in that area, trying to provoke you and get a reaction out of you.

The proper response to antagonism

Hannah’s response is everything. “And she was in bitterness of soul,” (v. 10). It would be a lie to say that when someone antagonizes you that you can just rise above and be the bigger person; God knows our hearts. It hurts when someone maliciously tries to manipulate and provoke you. Hannah was in bitterness of soul, and she “prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.” (v. 10). Can’t you just picture her, completely worn out, worn thin, and weary – falling flat on her face and giving it all to God? And what does she pray? She asks God to remember her, and not forget her, and she asks in faith and commits the deepest desires of her heart to God. Can the same be said for us? When we’re antagonized and provoked, do we – bitterness of soul and all – take our vulnerabilities and our weaknesses to the Lord? Or do we bite back, allow the antagonists in our lives to hurt us, and to control us through their actions?

Learn more about a Biblical response to antagonism on hopereflected.com

Do we take our vulnerabilities and weaknesses to the Lord? Or do we bite back and allow the antagonists in our lives to hurt us?

Hope Reflected

It’s interesting to note that after Hannah commits it to the Lord, we don’t read of Peninnah again. We do read, however, that the Lord remembers Hannah (v. 19), and that she remembers God’s faithfulness to her.

Originally published as “The agony of antagonism.” Independent Plus. July 1, 2021: 5. Print. Web.



November 2021

Countenance Sharpeners

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:" Hebrews 10:24 | Read more of Coutenance Sharpeners on hopereflected.com

The victor’s material

In Biblical times, iron was the victor’s material for weapons of war. We read in Judges that Judah could not defeat the Philistines of the valley “because they had chariots of iron.” (1:19). Before the days of steel, iron was popular for the making of swords and other weapons, because it was stronger and could be sharpened better than other prominent metals of the time period.

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." Proverbs 27:17 | Read more on hopereflected.com

Sharpening is important

In woodworking, a dull blade can ruin a good piece of wood. In the kitchen, an unsharpened knife can cause serious injury to the person using it. King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 27:17 that as “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Good friends help to keep each other sharp. You know the feeling when you finish a conversation with a good friend, and you feel better, lighter, and refreshed? That is the countenance sharpening that Solomon referred to. True friends help to refine, encourage us to grow in wisdom, and point us to the Lord. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:” (Hebrews 10:24). True friends prepare us for action.

Realignment and straightening

Many people have a knife set in their kitchen. A standard knife set usually includes an unusual-looking column of steel or ceramic. This tool is called a honing rod. Contrary to popular belief, a honing rod doesn’t actually sharpen knives. A honing rod is used to realign and straighten knife blades that have become blunt or curled. Beyond countenance sharpening, a good friend offers correction when we’re going astray. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:2 that in addition to exhorting one another, we are to reprove and rebuke when necessary. Jesus Himself said that when a brother sins against us, we’re to “go and tell him his fault,” (Matthew 18:15). As much as we all need sharpening, we also need to be realigned and straightened out once in a while, too!

"True friends help to keep each other sharp. They help to refine, to encourage, and to grow." | Read more of Countenance Sharpeners on hopereflected.com

True friends point one another to Christ

Some commentaries suggest that to “sharpen” in Proverbs 27:17 is to antagonize or exasperate. A true friend doesn’t provoke; a true friend promotes others to be better people and most importantly points their friends toward Christ. Anything contrary to this is not friendship.

C.S. Lewis wrote in his book The Four Loves that, “In friendship… we think we have chosen our peers…for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ Friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to us the beauties of others.” The opposite of sharp is to be dull, blunt, or blurred. We’ve all had occasions where we’ve felt less than our best. In such times, it is prayer answered to have a friend come alongside to sharpen our countenance.

“It is prayer answered to have a friend come alongside to sharpen our countenance.”

Hope Reflected

Originally published as “Countenance sharpeners.” Independent Plus. June 10, 2021: 5. Print. Web.



January 2015

Hope, She Wrote: Three Factors of Friendship

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work, Uncategorized

We’re less than one week into the new year, and already I’m counting several reasons to be thankful for my closest friends. If you’re someone who has ever struggled to fit in, then you’ll appreciate these three characteristics of true friends. Friends, thank you.

True friendship

Always one to look on the bright side, I sat down the other night and added some items to my gratitude list (taking a queue from Bing Crosby’s “Count Your Blessings”), and because many of my gratitude items are directly related to people, I really got thinking about all the incredible humans that I’m so blessed to call friends.

The word “friend” is defined as “a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection”. [FYI, the word “friend” is also listed as a verb, to “add (someone) to a list of contacts associated with a social networking website,” but we won’t even go into the disingenuous disposition of social networking at this time.]

When I was in middle school, I really struggled to fit in. (Shocking, right?) In high school, I made a couple of lifelong friends, and in college, my path crossed with another great group of people, who today remain some of my nearest and dearest (even though we’re all living in various countries throughout the world – literally). And since moving to small-town Clifford, I’ve been blessed to find what I’d call a few really solid, true-blue, best friends.

The thing about friendship is that in order to have friends, you’ve got to be a friend. It took me a while to learn this. It’s like the old adage, “Don’t wait for people to be friendly. Show them how.” Well, I’m no expert, but I’d venture to say that one of the key components of true friendship is that the street goes both ways. Friendship is one of those things for which we have to decide to make time. Family, work schedules, travel – all of these things take time. And friendship is no different.

A few columns ago, I wrote about nurturing the hearts of others, and part of that means savouring sweet moments with friends, and letting them know that you care. Here are three factors of friendship that I’m thankful for:

  1. Friendship that is based on genuine mutual interests and a listening ear. There’s something so powerful about a set of friends who truly care about each other not just on a personal level, but spiritually as well. These are friends who typically have best interests at heart. This is something I’m thankful for, as well friendships where listening is just as important as talking.
  2. Friendship that can span miles, and years, without changing. Ever had a friend, with whom you lost touch, only to reconnect with them a few years later, – or maybe even after a decade – and it’s as though nothing at all has changed (except maybe your laugh lines are deeper)? Yeah, I’m thankful for those friendships.
  3. Friendship without conditions. There will always be those people who want to connect and “be friends” for their own selfish benefit. But, as we all know, friendship requires a certain amount of selflessness (seems obvious, but srsly, some people…). You can’t be in it for your own benefit or based on your own conditions (otherwise it’s not true friendship). I’m thankful for friends who are my friends regardless of circumstances or what I can do for them (and vice versa). Charles Spurgeon once said, “you may judge of a man’s character by the persons whose affection he seeks. If you find a man seeking only the affection of those who are great, depend upon it he is ambitious and self-seeking; but when you observe that a man seeks the affection of those who can do nothing for him, but for whom he must do everything, you know that he is not seeking himself, but that pure benevolence sways his heart.”

What are the friendships that you’re thankful for? Don’t just keep your gratitude to yourself – share it with your friends!


Originally published as “Three Factors of Friendship”. Minto Express 22 October 2014: 5. Print.