A few months back I had the privilege of having four of my friends stay a couple of nights at my house. They flew in from all over the country. There was a catch, though. From whence they came they also had to return. So a week later, it was time for them to board their respective planes. After the necessary group hug, one by one they headed off into the terminals. While watching their figures disappearing into the crowd of others who were also leaving for parts unknown, I was struck by a sensation of fear and grief. It providentially worked out that the last of my four comrades left a few hours later than the others. And upon our return back home in waiting for his flight, we had a discussion on the farewell experience.
After delving into the thought processes behind my internal response, I soon realised my dislike of saying goodbye ultimately tied into a fear of never seeing those loved ones again. The fear is only natural, right? True. Though, separation is one of those things man wasn't meant to feel on a Sin-stained level. A level where death impedes the prospect of seeing each other face to face again in this lifetime. Aha, now herein lies the truth and application I walked away from this discussion with! Believe it or not, it actually is contained in a single word: Eternity.
You may be asking by now, "How does Eternity tie into saying goodbye?" Well, for starters, it means we don't have to dread saying goodbye. For the Christian, we have the hope of a future resurrection through Christ. One where every true believer will be made complete, both in Body and in Spirit. Eternal life in Christ. Worshipping at the Throne of Grace. Amen, yes? To this Paul says,
"For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:53-55)
Also consider John's words of Jesus in his Gospel.
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one." (John 10:27-30)
What these verses solidify is the fact that those who are believers, will see each other again, it just might not be here. Something else shown is the Sovereignty of God in our lives. He is weaving each of our threads together to form the tapestry of time. He knows if and or when paths cross again.
In light of all of that, saying goodbye turns from meaning something like, "I may never see you again." into a declaration of, "Until I see you again!" It goes from hopeless to hopeful. Yes, it will still hurt to say goodbye, but it will not be a crippling pain.
"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Therefore, with the time God has blessed you with to be in the physical presence of someone, don't let it go to waste. Redeem it! Speak, live, and breath the Gospel to them, in and out of season.
You never know when your Last Goodbye will be.