Saying "goodbye" is one of the hardest things in the world. Even though we are a small church, we've had to do that several times already, and we know that we will continue to have to do it on into the future. We've said goodbye to friends who have been called away to other churches in the area to minister. We've said goodbye to friends who have been called away to different states to plant churches. We've said goodbye to friends who have been called away to other countries as missionaries. The reality is that faithful believers will find themselves saying goodbye a lot. One of my friends from high school, college, and seminary, Eric Durso, wrote the following regarding this topic. He himself had to say goodbye to his friends, church, and extended family last month and he and his wife and kids packed up to move hours away to pastor a church. I found this article SO helpful, SO encouraging, and SO comforting, that I wanted to make sure I passed it along to our church. I'm italicizing the parts that most stood out to me. Be encouraged as you consider the glory of the Gospel, the majesty of Heaven, and the beauty of our Savior!
"Faithful Christians will always be saying good-bye. They are the ones who spend time investing in people, cultivating transparency and honesty, sharing in laughter and tears, serving together for the advance of their great cause. And sometimes they see their friends sense a call to a new place, and though their time together was sweet, they say goodbye in hope knowing they'll meet again in the kingdom, and that the parting will be eternally worth it.
Or, after years of being loved and cared for, shepherded and trained, challenged and comforted, discipled and debriefed, they themselves will sense the inward call to go. The gospel is too sweet and Jesus is too glorious and the lost are too many for them to stay around. They hope that perhaps God might use them more in a new place. And so they go, trusting the everlasting arms to uphold them.
This goodbye discomfort is good and healthy for the church. When we start resisting the goodbyes, fearing them, or organizing our lives so as to avoid them, we're no longer walking by faith. We're either too settled, never open to what God may have for us, or too insulated, not investing in the people who God is calling to go.
So faithful Christians will say goodbye a lot. Because they will always be the ones invested in the sent, or invested in the going. They wear the shoes of "readiness given by the gospel of peace." Having peace with God, they are ready for anything, including the risks of having to say goodbye.
Jesus knows that his disciples will often experience goodbye pains. That's why he wanted to encourage them with goodbye promises:
'Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.' Mark 10:29-30
Jesus sees our goodbyes. And he reminds us that in Christ, goodbyes are investments, not sacrifices. What we give up we get back one hundredfold. One fine morning, a billion years from now, when I wake up in the new heavens and the new earth, the idea that I thought some temporary discomforts in this vapor- life were a sacrifice will seem laughable.
What I said at the beginning of this reflection is not actually true. I said, "Faithful Christians will always be saying goodbye." But they won't. There will come a day they will never say goodbye again, when they will all be home, forever, with their Lord and with their friends. We can say goodbye now because we know that soon, we'll never have to do it again."