I say my share of tearful and fearful goodbyes. In our mobile society, church members get a new job and have to move. While I am happy for their career advancements in another state or country, I don't want them to leave because they are often the same people who furthered the kingdom of Christ in my church. These people encouraged me personally or led a life-changing Bible study or faithfully attended every service. I fear that this may be the end of ministry as we know it.
I experience another type of goodbye when a beloved church member dies. Sometimes my sadness at the funeral stems from the painful loss of shared fellowship or from the knowledge that death can come suddenly to anyone. My fear of saying goodbye keeps me from meditating on the delights God that has prepared for His children in heaven.
Part of my fear is rooted in unbelief. I fail to see that we have a faithful God who puts people in churches and gifts them for ministry. This same God does not want us to mourn as those who have no hope. A "better country" awaits, and we will be with God and fellow believers forever.
Goodbyes always have fear in them because we think this may be the final one, according to Tim Challies. He wrote a blog posting called "The Difficult Goodbye" where he tells the story of saying goodbye to his tearful daughter when he had to travel to Australia. Challies goes on to encourage Christian readers. "This is the time to give thanks to the one who guarantees that in him there are no final farewells, no permanent separations. It is the time to look forward with hope and joyful anticipation to the time we will never fear saying goodbye," he said.
Challies, who blogs at http://www.challies.com/, is a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. His popular blog is listed as one of the 10 top faith blogs in the world by several groups online, who use various metrics to determine the rankings.