The word “matters” is used often with reference to what is truly significant. When I ponder what really matters, three words come to mind: faith, family and friends.

The longer I live, the less significance I find in things. Though Jesus impacted the world like no other person who ever lived, he owned nothing except the clothes on his back. He possessed none of the “stuff” that none of us can do without, like a cellphone for example. Pondering that frees me from the temptation to spend a thousand dollars for a “new” cellphone. Jesus offered the ultimate warning about things when he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own” (Luke 12:15).

Faith determines how we live out our days. When the fierce winds of trouble drive me to my knees, my fears are subdued by the conviction that a loving Father is in control of all things, me and the world.  Faith in the love of God steadies my soul amidst life’s turbulent struggles. I cannot control my circumstances, but I can trust God, who says to me what he once said to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

On what grounds can I say that? I can say it because God has given me the faith to believe it, faith that is “based not on human wisdom but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5). How does one get such faith? It is a spiritual gift, freely given by the Spirit of God to all who trust in Jesus.

Family is precious to me. Family makes a house a home. When my wife died, it was the love of my family that helped me get back in the race. Though life is difficult, it would be impossible without the loving support of family.

Faithful friends are as essential as breathing. To be friendless would be worse than being homeless. Without good friends, life shrivels and dies. Faithful friends keep us from falling into the abyss of loneliness. While in prison, Paul wrote to Timothy, telling him that everyone but one man had deserted him. But Paul says, “Luke is with me.” It is not too much to believe that Paul could persevere because his dear friend Luke was with him.

A lonely person may say, “My dog is my best friend.” But as valuable as a dog may be, a dog’s companionship pales in significance to the unwavering love of a faithful friend. I love my little dog Buddy; he can bark and wag his tail and stay near me, but he cannot put his paw on my shoulder and say to me, “Walter, you’ve got what it takes to make it through what you are facing.” A faithful friend, doing that, can make all the difference in the world.

My dearest friend for 68 years was my wife. Dean told me the truth, but she clothed it with kindness. That made it palatable. When she spoke truth I needed to hear, I realized she was doing it for my good. And I knew I would be a fool not to listen — and mend my ways.

I like this description of a good friend: “When it hurts to look back, and you’re scared to look ahead, you can look beside you and your best friend will be there.” Dean was always “there” for me, even when I least deserved it. When the Lord God saw how lonely Adam was, he said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him” (Genesis 2:18). I can never thank God enough for making Dean for me; more than a helper, she was the best mentor, companion and friend any husband ever had.

Another fit description of good friends is this: “Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” How true! I am a blessed man because of true friends who have left their footprints in my heart.

I grew up with one such friend. Grady and I became close friends in high school. In our retirement years we live only 20 miles apart, so we have met often to “catch up.” When we meet, it is as though we are continuing the conversation we had when we last met. He makes me feel remarkably accepted, and I sense he feels the same way.

This friend’s sense of humor blesses me. He cannot speak long without laughing. There is joy inside him that keeps bubbling up. He has a gift for injecting fun into an ordinary chat. About our friendship he would probably say, “A true friend is someone who thinks you are a good egg even though he knows you are slightly cracked.” With that I cannot argue.

The telephone may be a nuisance sometimes, but it can also be a great blessing. Who is not overjoyed when the phone rings and you hear a good friend saying, “I just needed to hear the sound of your voice today.” Such moments call for a loud “Glory!”

What really matters? When Jesus is your Savior and primary friend, who knows your every weakness, surely there is no better answer than faith, family and friends.