“But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
As I met with a friend the other day, we discussed our friendship–how the distance would change the relationship but would certainly not end it. The friendship may look different now than what we originally expected, but the difference does not mean the friendship is going to be worse; in fact, it might actually be better–deeper.
And as I reflected on that conversation, God reminded me of the above words of Jesus to His disciples. Upon hearing that He was going to be leaving them, the disciples, even though they knew where He’d be going, were filled with sorrow over the fact that Jesus was indeed leaving them. They didn’t want to say good-bye; they didn’t want to see Him go. Honestly, I’m sure it must have been difficult to comprehend saying good-bye to Jesus. After all, how awesome it must have been to physically walk with and talk with Jesus–witnessing His miracles, gleaning from His words of wisdom, physically feeling His tender strength.
Yet the One they loved was telling them He would be leaving.
And they were devastated.
Truly, who wouldn’t be? As one who recently moved from a place I called home for nearly 20 years to a brand new place, I can empathize in part with the sorrow that the disciples must have been feeling–the sorrow that comes with saying goodbye. Whether saying good-bye comes with a move to another place, to another job, or even to another ministry, there is grief in letting go. Even a move by choice will be accompanied by levels of grief.
Yet I believe there is an important principle we can glean from Jesus’ encouragement to His disciples regarding His looming departure. It is a principle meant to comfort and to encourage us as we face the good-byes of life…
Sometimes it takes saying goodbye to what we know in order to gain what we never could have imagined.
Think about it for a moment. In Jesus’ case, He had two reasons to leave: He not only had to die to free us from our bondage, but He also had to go back to His Father in order for the Comforter to come. He specifically told the disciples that if He did not go, then the Helper (the Holy Spirit) could not come.
What was special about the Holy Spirit? According to John 14:26, “…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send…will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I [Jesus] have said….” The Holy Spirit is God in us–His power, His life, His wisdom, His promise. With the Holy Spirit, God’s presence is within us wherever we go. Talk about awesome! Yes, Jesus in the flesh was amazing, not to be diminished in any capacity, yet as a human, Jesus was limited in His Presence. As the Holy Spirit, God is truly omnipresent; He has no limitations. By saying good-bye to Jesus in the flesh, the disciples opened the door for the Holy Spirit. What they thought was a loss was truly a gain. And Jesus knew this. He knew this as He foretold His departure. He knew this when He reminded disciples to remain in the city until the Comforter would come (Luke 24:49).
Jesus knew saying goodbye to God in the flesh was necessary in order to gain God in the Spirit. By letting go of what they knew, the disciples (and all of us!) gained what they never could have imagined.
So I am not sure where you are as you read this. You may be enjoying where you are without any indication of change on the horizon. Great! Enjoy this season of rest. God has you where you are for His good pleasure.
Maybe, however, you are facing change. Your husband just found out he was getting transferred…to another state. Your boss just told you they are cutting your position. God Himself has called you to a new ministry…. Whatever the change you may be facing, let me encourage you to watch for God. Watch for Him to move in ways you never thought possible. Imagine what opportunities await you in that new state. Imagine what new adventure God has in store for you now that you are without a job. Imagine the lives that will be forever changed by your presence in this new ministry.
Yes, good-byes are not easy. There is grief involved. And I in no way diminish this grief; in fact, I encourage you to allow yourself to grieve what once was. It’s healthy to grieve losses. Yet don’t remain in a state of grief; heal through it and keep moving forward. And as you move forward, keep your eyes fixed on the author and finisher of your faith. You may be struggling with letting go of what once was, but let me encourage you, my friend, one day you will look back with gratitude and awe at the amazing opportunities that arose from the ashes of that good-bye.
Don’t lose hope, my friend. Don’t lose hope. What may be the most difficult ride of your life could be the very journey to your greatest destination.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”