The postcard was written with glowing enthusiasm. On the picture side, a tropical paradise had been professionally photographed, enabling the sender to convey the wonder of her surroundings. I know. I was the sender.
An offer had come months earlier from a benevolent friend wanting me to go with her on an all-expense paid trip to an island resort. One would think I would have jumped at the chance. I didn’t. It was meant to be a girl’s trip and the thought of leaving loved ones behind overshadowed the opportunity. It was only their insistent encouragement that finally persuaded me to accept.
The day of departure was bittersweet. Before me was a place I had only heard about and, though I wasn’t alone, I still felt the sting of being separated from those back home. The loneliness decreased as my journey progressed and ultimately gave way to the joys found in the sights, sounds and beauty inherent in the paradise setting. The days were glorious and the evenings peaceful. Together they provided restorative rest and I came to realize that had I refused the gift, I would have missed the blessing ~ all because of unfounded fears. They went like this: What if something happened while I was away and I wasn’t there for my family? How could I enjoy myself and leave them behind? What if the plane went down? What if there was a hurricane? The more I entertained these ridiculous fears, the more I began to realize I was putting little trust in God who ordains my days, as well as those of my family. Fear is never to be our guide. Faith is.
The struggle between fear and faith isn’t limited to solo vacations. It presents itself to us on a much higher plane. God offers the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, but countless people refuse to take it for fear that it will mean some kind of earthly loss. After all, venturing out with Jesus may separate us from familiar territory and our human nature wants to control life as we see fit. Making a decision for Christ surrenders ownership to the authority of God who gives life in the first place. Faith is willing to venture out. Fear fights hard against it. The first rests in the will of God; the latter in the will of man. How then do we choose? The answer is found in our ability to distinguish between the temporal and the eternal, between what is seen and what is unseen. Underlying both is the promise of God that His people are in His care.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … Nay in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35, 37-39 NKJV
Times of separation come to each one of us. Some bring opportunities, some anxiety, and others heartbreak. Job opportunities take dear ones to far off places. Military families face deployment for long stretches. Illnesses result in hospital stays. College moves young people from homes to dorms. And a last breath ushers the mortal into immortality, leaving those that remain to find their new normal. In all this God is telling His people He is there. He is closer than we think and we can trust Him,
Many years after my tropical vacation had become a sweet memory, the loved ones I didn’t want to leave behind went on to Glory ahead of me. In the face of separations I would never have imagined, God proved Himself faithful with a peace that defies explanation and grace that carried me through the years of adjustment.
Their departure brought them to the Paradise I have only heard about. They have a wholeness I can’t begin to comprehend and I don’t believe for a moment that they have the slightest longing to return. The sting of separation doesn’t hurt, the pain of suffering doesn’t exist. What I know in part, they now know in whole for they have the fullness of peace and joy that is only possible in the perfect presence of God. St. Paul said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” What an extraordinary thought. There is no separation in Christ.
What a source of hope and encouragement! God’s enthusiasm to share His Kingdom goes way beyond a postcard greeting that speaks of Paradise. He has sent a Book filled with truth, promises, and guidance so that, through Jesus, we may step upon Heaven’s shore one day.
I’ve tried to imagine the surroundings of those that are already there and wonder what they would write us if they could. It’s quite possible words would fail to describe the splendor; they could only say “Wish You Were Here!”