In John 16 Jesus is talking to his disciples, trying to prepare them for things to come. He would be killed, and there
would be deep grief, and sorrow. But as well, there would be greater joy than they had ever known. “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (Jn 16.20). As the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday unfolded, they came to understand what Jesus meant.
The season of Lent in the Christian tradition, is a time of spiritual preparation before Easter. It is a time of perhaps drawing closer to God, or of soul searching. Often the season is one of considering what it cost Jesus to bring us the gift of eternal life. Perhaps it is also a time of considering the grief felt by Jesus’ disciples as they witnessed His sacrifice. Perhaps it is a time when we consider how we might cause pain and offence to Jesus ? Or how we might draw nearer to Him.
But, in whatever way people today prepare for Easter today, we have the benefit of hindsight. We already know the story. We know that the victory was won. We know that Jesus rose again. The world may not know, or may not believe it, but Christians do.
As time of ministry and service to this church family is drawing near for me, there are also feelings of grief and uncertainty. I have been trying to prepare my church family for things to come. There have been little things that I have done that need to be done by someone else. Perhaps things like locking doors, turning off lights, recycling, overseeing details, etc. will get done. Leaders will need to lead without my prompting. Another big concern for me is how will we handle our grief.
Saying goodbye is one of the hardest things to do in life! We have done this at funerals, and at times when friends moved away. We don’t like it! Some hate the goodbyes so much that they just leave without saying it. Some struggle with the feelings of grief for a long time afterwards through depression, or anger, or withdrawing.
Saying good-bye will be difficult for me. You have been my family, my support, and my joy for the past 27 years. My children have grown up here. You have been there for me in the hardest times, and the joyful times. I have dedicated your children, and performed weddings, and wept at funerals. There have been challenges. Even before Covid, there have been some hard things to deal with. As it says in Ecclesiastes 3, “there is a season.” Things don’t stay the same.
And I believe that just like with Jesus’ disciples on Easter morning had the most impossible dream come true, God has a joyful future for you, and me. “Behold I am doing a new thing,” God says, (Isa 43.19). Yes, things change– but God is good! We may not like losing, and hurting, and grieving– but we sure do love Easter, and springtime, and new babies, and new friendships!
So in the next few weeks to come, let us commit to allowing ourselves the permission to grieve, and say our goodbyes. Let us resolve to cope as best we can with the changes, and the feelings of sadness that we don’t like. But, as Paul says, “let us not grieve as those who have no hope.” (1 Thess. 4). Likewise, let us not forget to celebrate our joys, and our blessings. Let us plant new seeds, and begin new friendships. Please invest your time and your heart into your church. Your spiritual family needs you, and you need them! Please take time to eat together, and laugh, and see God’s hand at work through the changes to come. Yes, things change (even when we don’t like them) but God is good!