Saying goodbye

INTRODUCTION. Considering the sadness and inevitability of “goodbye.”

We waved goodbye the same way we had always waved goodbye, with Mom standing under the small wooden plaque that hung above the gate of her picket fence, “To God be the glory.” She was smiling and waving as we drove slowly past, with our windows down, smiling and waving as we yelled, “We love you,” out the window. There was a familiar ache in my chest as this woman who had loved me for fifty-seven years disappeared from the rearview mirror, knowing that she would again be alone in her small home, just her and the Lord and her thoughts. But we would come back soon and again spend time together and then again poignantly and painfully wave goodbye. We would see her again.

But we didn’t. Five days later my brother called to tell me that Mom had died. She was suddenly gone, beyond the reach of another hello. That last goodbye waving out of the car window was THE last goodbye.

GOODBYE AS THE HUMAN CONDITION

This is the nature of the human condition. Every hello is paired with its corresponding goodbye. If there is a first meeting, there will be a final meeting. A relationship begun is a relationship that will end. My mom greeted me on August 2, 1959, as her second son, still umbilically tied, was placed on her stomach. She remembered that beginning of our relationship, even treasuring the memory of the details, but I, of course, could not remember that beginning. Then, more than fifty-seven years later, after loving me for my entire lifetime, on May 12, 2017, my mom’s earthly relationship with me ended. I remember the end of our relationship, but she, of course, could not.

The older I get, the more experience I have with goodbye. This, too, is part of the human condition, for goodbyes never stop. They keep coming until our death, and no amount of practice makes them any easier.

This morning we said goodbye to dear friends who had visited us for the weekend. We hugged each other several times, wanting to delay the inevitable departure. We saw in each other’s eyes a loving affection for one another created by our love for Jesus Christ and the anticipation of separating weighed on our hearts. Then finally, begrudgingly, with a mixture of joy and sadness, we said goodbye, hoping there would be a future hello.

NO CURE FOR GOODBYE

There is no cure for goodbye in this world. Goodbye is a result of Adam’s sin in the Garden and a consequence of the fall of man. In a fallen world, there is sin and separation and death. Until there is a cure for sin and death, there is no answer for goodbye. As long as man is helpless before sin and death, man is hopeless before the pain of goodbye.

But now, for the follower of Jesus Christ, the power of goodbye has been forever broken. The good news is that, when a person says hello to Jesus and confesses Him as Lord (Romans 10:9), there will never be a goodbye. No one can snatch the believer out of Jesus’ hand (John 10:28). Jesus has promised to be with His disciples to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). God has promised to never leave His people, but rather to be with us forever (Joshua 1:5, 9; Hebrews 13:5). God is with us by His indwelling Holy Spirit from the moment of justification (Eph. 1:13; Col. 2:13) to the instant of our death, and at death we are at home with Him (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23). So, with Jesus there is only hello. For His followers, King Jesus has conquered the kingdom of goodbye.

NOW GOODBYE IS ONLY TEMPORARY

But more than that, for believers in Jesus even our earthly “final goodbyes” are only temporary. We are not those who grieve like the rest who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). We worship the God of the living (Matt. 22:32), and, through faith in Jesus, we have been made alive in Christ (Eph. 2:4; Col. 2:13). That means that even if we die physically, we will never die (John 11:25-26). So, while my mom’s physical death ended our earthly relationship and we will never again relate to one another as mother and son, in Christ we will forever relate to one another as worshipers of the Lord Jesus, together with a great multitude of worshipers which no one could count before the throne and before the Lamb (Rev. 7:9). Death and all goodbyes will be no more (Rev. 21:4) and we will be with Christ forever and ever.

SDG                 rmb                 6/6/2022                     #539

For the believer, the sources of discouragement are gone

INTRODUCTION. Another post (see #528 on May 11, 2022) on the subject of discouragement and how the believer can and should fight to be free of this condition.

EXPECT TO BE DISCOURAGED

A few days ago I posted an article on “discouragement” (see #528 on May 11). In that article, I made the statement that discouragement is the expected state for many people in this world just based on their discouraging state of mind. For example, if you fear the future, and are discontent in the present, and regret the past, you should be discouraged. If you believe your existence is an accident of impersonal random chance in a vast, indifferent universe, you should expect to be discouraged. If you are afraid of death, then expect to be discouraged. If you have no meaningful purpose for your life, you will be discouraged. Sooner or later, even the most optimistic person will be crushed by these ideas and will become discouraged, then depressed, and then probably will feel hopeless. Bottom line is, if this is you, you should expect to be discouraged.

Now, I want to think some more about this phenomenon of a discouraging state of mind. There are two things to observe about the discouraging thoughts that I listed above. First, these thoughts can occur to anyone, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, physical health, monetary status, marital status, national origin, or any other natural distinction. Because these are thoughts and concepts in the mind, they can occur to anyone. That’s first.

BUT NOT THE BELIEVER!

But second and more profound, these thoughts should not be present to any great measure to the follower of Jesus. Here’s why I say that.

  • Fear of the future. In this life, “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28), so there is no need to fear the future in this life. When I die, I will go to heaven (Phil. 1:23) and at the resurrection, I will receive a glorified body and will forever be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17), so there is no need to fear the future after death. The believer should not fear the future.
  • Discontent in the present. The believer is to give thanks in everything (1 Thess. 5:18) and is to be content in whatever circumstances they are (Phil. 4:11-12; Job 1:21; 1 Timothy 6:6-8), so there is no reason to grumble or be discontent.
  • Regret the past. “Forgetting what lies behind, and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize” (Phil. 3:13-14). The Bible says that the believer can forget what lies behind, so no regret. The “body of sin” from my past is gone (Romans 6:6). “I have been crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), so there is no past sin remaining to be regretted. I am a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), and as a new creation, I have no past to regret.
  • My existence is an accident of impersonal random chance. One of the great benefits of being an atheist or an evolutionist is that you believe that, in your very essence, you are an accident of impersonal random chance. This points to the fact that your existence (or non-existence, for that matter) cannot be of any significance, because it is impossible for the results of impersonal random events to have any inherent meaning. For the follower of Jesus, however, who knows that he has been formed in His mother’s womb by the living God (Psalm 139:13-14) and has been chosen before the foundation of the world for salvation (Ephesians 1:4) by the maker of heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1), his life has immense significance. He will pour out his life to God as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).
  • Afraid of death. The natural man, regardless of his futile attempts to deny it and disguise it, is afraid of death. Death is God’s judgment on sin, and as such, causes fear in the depths of man’s soul. It is fear of death that has motivated man to create his demonic religions, but these will do him no good on the day of judgment. The natural man has no answer for death, and yet death relentlessly approaches with each passing day. But for the follower of Jesus, death has no sting (1 Cor. 15:54). For the Christian, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). It is after death that the believer receives the crown of life (Rev. 2:10). Because Jesus is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25-26), the one who believes in Him will never die.
  • No meaningful purpose in life. The vast majority of people spend their lives without a mission or a purpose. Even people whom the world evaluates as “successful” are simply better at doing what the world values than other people but ask them to describe to you their mission and they are at a loss. The best most people have is a worldly idea to gather together more stuff. But the follower of Jesus has been given a mission by the Lord Jesus Himself. Part of the birthright of the born-again is the Great Commission. “Go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19-20). Also, I am to be Christ’s witness (Acts 1:8). I am to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Confession). Whatever I do in life can be measured against these great mission statements. The Christian should not be discouraged because there are always more opportunities to be a witness for Christ. My purpose and my mission have been given to me by the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Jesus Himself has given me personally my mission and my purpose. And so, the believer should not be discouraged because their life is full of purpose. The mission is clear, and it is exciting.

So, brothers and sisters in the Lord, let’s shed the grave clothes of discouragement and let’s put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) and rejoice!

My next post on this subject will describe why it is so difficult for the discouraged believer to be obedient to the Scriptures.

SDG                 rmb                 5/13/2022                   #530