I trust that you enjoyed our celebration of Easter this year. I was encouraged by the presence of new people in our congregation, but more so by the presence of God as His Son was lifted up and we were able to rejoice in the death and resurrection of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Where do we go from here? The next key event in history was the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. I looked in my diary to see when that will be marked this year. It is not listed. It does not merit a mention!
The Ascension of Jesus was however an important aspect of God’s purpose in redeeming His people. Before he died, Jesus said to His disciples “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away,” (John 16:7) He had earlier said “I will not leave you as orphans;” (Jn 14:18).
In a recent Children’s Talk Paul Jenkins was saying that perhaps the hardest word in the English Language is “Sorry”. I agree with him and would suggest that a close second is the phrase “Good-bye”, because it usually implies a separation.
In both of the situations above Jesus was heralding the fact that change and separation would have to happen. When He uses the illustration of orphans we know that He is speaking of that awful separation that comes when a child loses its parents usually in some tragic or unexpected way, but separation also comes when children leave home for education, work or marriage. We also have the wrenching separation that comes with the death of a loved one.
Why do we find these experiences so difficult? The most basic answer is that we do not like change. Another closely related answer though is that we don’t want to let people go beyond the security of our own home or family. Scripture however is clear in two areas. Marriage is part of God’s plan and must bring separation – “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Although death is a result of the Fall it also is inevitable and brings separation – “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement,” (Heb. 9:27)
Returning to Jesus’ teaching before His crucifixion, He said “if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (Jn 16:7) Jesus made it clear that for God’s greatest purposes to be fulfilled the disciples had to come to terms with the fact that physical separation was necessary. I understand the PAIN both of bereavement and of letting children go, but I suggest we cause ourselves greater pain if we fail to understand God’s purposes in Providence. We were given children, in our families and in the church, for a set period and have the privilege of preparing them for adulthood, but we must prepare ourselves and them to be let go. Similarly Psalm 90 tells us that the average life span is 70 to 80 years and “they are soon gone” (v.10). The death of a loved one will always be painful, but it must never make us angry with God or life. When the Spirit came on the Church they were given an awareness and experience of God unparalleled before. It equipped them to serve in ways and places un-thought of while Christ was with them. We have no idea what God has prepared for us and our loved ones when we let them go.
In effect, in this letter I want to encourage each of us to see life through a Biblical lens. Life and the world are perpetually changing, but God and His purposes are not. We must change and embrace the changes of life even when they are difficult, knowing that God is able to use that for good. At the same time we have to be willing to give our all in preparing people, especially our own children and then to let them go.
An understanding fellow-believer,
Bernard Lewis May 2018