I am writing this one for myself as much as anyone else, and I’m far from having mastered it. But the season of departures is here: the new academic term is beckoning many youngsters, and you might be about to wave off your son or daughter. The reality is, no one prepares you for it! The emotional blow is rarely spoken of, and so we’re left to work it out for ourselves. It’s almost like a second childbirth; this time we’re releasing them into the big wide world in a different kind of way, in that we won’t be there to hold them. If you are a mum you will know this isn’t far-fetched.
So here’s the hope I have to offer, for if not now, we will in the future face physical distance between ourselves and loved ones, and an accompanying sadness. The thing is, God doesn’t ask us to put them down – we will always hold them in our hearts, and that’s what he does with us. Somehow we are alongside them with our love; affirmation or rejection can be felt across the miles, and we celebrate continued contact. The apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians on being together while apart: “For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit.” (Colossians 2:5). That was in the days before Facebook Messenger and mobile phones… we really are very blessed, though it might not feel like that in the early days of adjustment!
Of course one day we will be separated from loved ones with no means of contact, and even Jesus seemed upset by this when faced with the death of his friend Lazarus. We read ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35) when seeing where his friend Lazarus had been laid. On witnessing the sorrow of others, ‘he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled’. (John 11:33). He is the best one to journey on with, all our days. A “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” we can confide in him everything that we’re feeling. He won’t think us weak for it, or deficient in any way (though aren’t we all?); being honest with him is actually a strength. Connecting with him in all circumstance is surely the way to go.
Most of us are familiar with the words, ‘never will I leave you, never will I forsake you’, but I understand this translates more accurately, ‘never never will I leave you, never never will I forsake you.’ Charles Spurgeon, in a sermon titled “Never! Never! Never! Never! Never!” went further, stating five negatives are more appropriate:
‘I have no doubt you are aware that our translation does not convey the whole force of the original, and that it would hardly be possible in English to give the full weight of the Greek. We might render it, “He hath said, I will never, never leave thee; I will never, never, never forsake thee;” for, though that would be not a literal, but rather a free rendering, yet, as there are five negatives in the Greek, we do not know how to give their force in any other way. Two negatives nullify each other in our language; but here, in the Greek, they intensify the meaning following one after another. “Never! Never! Never! Never! Never!”’
The reality for the believer is that we are never alone, and God wants us to engage with him and tell him how we’re feeling, whatever our circumstances. He is able to sustain us. I believe he doesn’t just want us to get through this time – he wants us to feel blessed and contented and alive. It might not happen overnight, but he’s the God of all comfort and he will answer our prayers. We must just keep talking to him, one day at a time.
 Isaiah 53:5
 [no. 477], delivered on Sunday Morning, October 26th, 1862, by Rev. C. H. SPURGEON at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington)