“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21)
Goodbyes are hard. Last Sunday, we had to say goodbye to a beloved family in our church. That’s the third family in three weeks – all of them here because of the Marine Base, who have now moved out of state once their assignment ended.
Every church has seasons of transition, but being a small church in a military community, ours are especially pronounced. Transitions hit us every year about this time, not with a minor tremor, but a massive earthquake, shaking us and forcing us to pick up the pieces and start over again.
The Bible describes the church as a body of believers. Continuing that same analogy, we could say that losing members is like amputation. It is always painful and messy, both for the family leaving, and for the church they leave behind. A large void, both emotionally and spiritually, is left behind.
One military family told me that a church member (not from our church, but a previous one), told them, “Our family doesn’t get close to Marines, because they are just going to leave again.” That is heartbreaking. We should have the exact opposite response. I believe instead, we should say, “We know our time together is limited, so we want to make every second count.”
Jesus spent approximately three years with his disciples during his public ministry. It was a relatively short amount of time, but he chose to build deep and lasting relationships with those men. Before his departure, Jesus comforted his disciples, “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22).
We’ve said many goodbyes over the years to dear friends and have an ever expanding network of friends and ministry partners scattered around the world. But we rejoice that in the end, we will see each other again, and there will be a sweet reunion in heaven. Our time together in this life may have been short, but our prayer is that our church fueled their love for the Lord and will yield a lifetime of harvest.