When he had finished speaking, he knelt and prayed with them. They all cried as they embraced and kissed him good-bye. They were sad most of all because he had said that they would never see him again.
Acts 20:36-38 NLT
There was clearly a very strong bond between Paul and the Ephesian elders and this moment of parting was painful. Paul, of all people, had an absolute conviction in the wonderful future that God had for him. He often spoke with great confidence about the after-life. In Philippians he reflected on the life to come and summarised the situation by saying “I long to go and be with Christ, which would be better by far for me.” (Philippians 1.23) I am sure that Paul had no doubt that the elders would also have been looking forward to the same future. But even so this moment of departure was sad and painful and the tears flowed.
We shouldn’t be afraid of our emotions. At the funeral of a Christian we always have much to celebrate. We believe that Jesus came to bring us eternal life and, therefore, death is only a change of state. It doesn’t alter the fact that our life is securely in God’s hands. Nevertheless, there is real sadness when a Christian dies and it is important that we are open about that. Death cannot separate us from the love of God, but it does separate us from one another for a while and we understandably miss the warmth, love and conversation with the one who has passed.
These verses are important for me because they reveal the depth of love that these Christians had for one another. If it had been a superficial or merely a working relationship there would have been no need for tears. Throughout my years of ministry I have moved on to a new sphere of ministry on a number of occasions. I have always found those moments incredibly painful and have never moved on without many tears. In every situation precious relationships have grown up and deep roots have developed. The pain of moving on has been real but I don’t regret it because it has revealed the love that I’ve shared with others, and for that I will always be grateful.
How do you cope with moving on?
Loving God, thank you that you are with us all the time, and that you share with us the painful transitions of life. Amen
Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son was revealed to destroy the works of the devil
and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life:
Grant that we, having this hope,
may purify ourselves even as he is pure;
that when he shall appear in power and great glory,
we may be made like him
in his eternal and glorious kingdom;
where he is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.