Goodbye—is there a worse word in the English language?
As I type this, I am surrounded by moving boxes and packing tape. Our family is preparing to move to a new state after ten years in a lovely small town. This is a home where I started my marriage and brought home four babies; I truly can’t contemplate living somewhere else! Seeing bare walls and tearfully hugging friends have left me emotionally wrung out. It doesn’t feel like “home” anymore when your footfalls echo in empty space, and yet the thought of driving away from this house for the final time is making my stomach turn.
Humans were never meant to say goodbye.
So much of the goodness of life happens when people are together. As it says in Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Is there anything better than togetherness: snuggling a baby, working with a coworker who just gets you, hanging out as a happy family, laughing at inside jokes with a friend, or enjoying the comfort of a stable marriage?
By contrast—is there anything worse than division? Some of the worst things in life stem from separation: being away from your kids, not being on the same page with coworkers, having your family wrenched apart by conflict, stony silence from a friend, or the aching loneliness of a cold marriage, to name a few.
Jesus knows all about the awfulness of division; it’s the reason he left the joy of heaven to come to earth.
When God created the world, it and its inhabitants were perfect. God and Adam and Eve enjoyed complete togetherness (Genesis 1:27). Can you imagine being on the same page with GOD? Walking with him? Laughing at his jokes and reveling in the wisdom and comfort of his presence? But as we humans tend to do, Adam and Eve sinned, creating a gaping chasm between our holy God and the now-tarnished people of the world.
Jesus, who is truly God, became truly man to close the gap that separates us from our heavenly Father, and he sure did learn about the pain of goodbyes when he lived on earth. Though Jesus enjoyed moments of togetherness and the blessing of relationships during his life, they all ended in a macabre “goodbye.” Jesus didn’t get a going-away party, nice cards, or even a hug at the end of his ministry. He got the “reward” of dying on a cross.
His disciples ran away from him. A close buddy betrayed him. Arguably his best friend, Peter, denied that he knew Jesus, more concerned about saving his own skin than what the Creator of the world needed or wanted. Jesus was tortured and humiliated and eventually murdered, and for what?
For you. For me.
Jesus did it all so we never have to truly say goodbye.
Jesus lived a perfect life, died a perfect death, and rose to prove his power as an acceptable substitute for the holy life God demands from us. Because of that, heaven is ours—for free!
Because of what Jesus did for us, no goodbye is final for us. When our kids leave home, our friends get married, people move, or even if our loved ones die, as Christians, that separation is not the end of the road. No matter where life takes us, Christians do not have to say goodbye because we know we will all be together in heaven someday, restored to the perfect togetherness God always intended for us.
It’s okay to be sad when things change. It is natural to feel the sting of parting and the grief that goodbyes bring. But we don’t have to be too sad. Goodbye is far from “the end” for Christians. Our temporal heartaches pale in comparison to what awaits us in heaven, as the writer Paul says in Romans 8:18,19: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.”
We were never meant to say goodbye, and because of what Jesus did for us—we don’t have to!