Goodbyes are never easy, no matter how they come, but this is especially the case when it comes to what some may call “the final goodbye”. Yet when the “goodbye” is directed to someone who has had a long battle with cancer and to a fellow believer, the “goodbye” can become bittersweet. It seems like that time is near once again for my family as we prepare to say “goodbye” to a beloved uncle.
We grieve, but not as those without hope (see 1 Thess 4:13-14). No indeed, for we have the greatest hope of all–that because of Christ we will see my uncle again in heaven. My uncle gets the best part of it because he gets to see Jesus before the rest of us. He gets to go where God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4).
Our goodbyes will not be final, for we will see my uncle again, and when we do, there will be no more goodbyes. One of my favorite applications for “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pt 3:8) is one that the pastor at our church has said, “no sooner than when he gets there and see Jesus, will he turn around to find us all standing there with him.” What a glorious thought! It calls to mind lyrics from an old hymn: “When we all get to heaven what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!”
Indeed, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, death has been swallowed up in victory. In the words of another song, “The victory is won and the grave is overwhelmed”. We can have joy, we can have hope because of Christ! He has conquered sin and death, making a way for sinful men and women to be made right with God. For this reason, my uncle, indeed all us who are in Christ, may say “‘Death is swallowed up in victory. / ‘O death, where is your victory? / O death, where is your sting?'” (1 Cor 15:54b-55)
Yet even with all of the joy and hope we have in Christ in the midst of this, it is still hard on those who will remain on earth to tarry a while longer here. Perhaps the death of a loved one is hardest on those who survive them. They feel a pain of searing loss. I think that these people are very near to the heart of God.
I consider the cross of Jesus. God the Father had to bare the loss of His one and only begotten Son. He had to turn His face away from His own Son because of the sin that Jesus took upon His own shoulders. The Father bore the loss even as it was the will of God to crush Him (see Is 53:10). But because of the loss that occurred at Calvary, followed by the resurrection, we can have confidence that my uncle will go to be in heaven with his Lord, Savior, and Master–Jesus Christ.
Yes, I do think that those going through the pain of loss are near to the heart of God. “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted / and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps 34:18). For those who survive my uncle, I pray that this will be an overwhelming reality in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. I pray that God would make His presence evident. I pray that God would continue to receive the glory in all of this. Such has been my prayer from the beginning of my uncle’s battle with cancer: that the Lord would be glorified in the process as well as the outcome.
It seems that God has chosen to call one of His faithful servants home to be with Him in glory. He has fought the good fight, he has run his race well, and he has kept the faith (see 2 Tim 4:7). He has honored his Lord with his life and advanced the Kingdom of God here on earth. I hope that in my lifetime I can follow my uncle’s example in following Christ and be more like them both.
I will miss him greatly, as many will, but I’ll see him on the other side. For this reason, I do not say “goodbye”, but rather, “see you later”.