Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Having a friend is a good thing — two can defend themselves. Having a group — “three strands” — of safe and supportive relationships is even better. The reason is simple: Having more than one friend in our lives allows us to experience different people’s gifts, abilities, and uniqueness. Gaining support and sustenance from more than one person is much more powerful than receiving from just one. It also allows our friends to be unavailable at times, to hurt and have problems of their own, to have time alone.
Having a network of friends gives us a strong support base. It allows us to be psychologically mature. Only infants, dependent on one caregiver, need just one other person. As people grow up, they begin to need more. People were created for groups, families and a “body” of others to be knitted together. Certainly one-on-one support is important, but more than one is better. Plus, when one person can’t be there for us, there’s another phone number to call. And that other person may have something very valuable to offer. This is the beauty behind the Bible’s teachings on the church, the body of Christ. We’re a group of unfinished people.
We ask for help and give help; we ask again and give again. And when our supportive network is strong enough, we all help each other mature into what God intended us to be. “Bearing with one another in love,” we strive to be unified (see Ephesians 4:2 – 3). It is the truth that a few are stronger than two. A group is an entirely different dynamic than just two people.
We can sometimes hide and excuse parts of ourselves with just one person, but it is more difficult to do with a group. We would be wise to broaden our support network to more than just one other person so we may experience all the strength God has provided for us. A great example of this is when the spouse of an addict joins a codependency group and the power of the entire group helps her take a very difficult stand and sustain it. Many families and individuals have been saved by the power present in that kind of group. Hard situations in life can be better addressed when people have a strong system of support, as this passage in Ecclesiastes attests.
Find more insightful commentary from Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend in the NIV Life Journey Bible, which combines the world’s most accessible Bible translation with exclusive teaching.