The Pain of Separation
Every parting is a form of death, as every reunion is a type of heaven.
All summer long, I dreaded the start of the school year. Our oldest son graduated high school this spring, and at the end of August, we packed up the car and moved him into the university dorms. I have never been so proud and so devastated at the same time. As we hugged him and said our goodbyes, my eyes filled with tears. There have been so many tears as we’ve adjusted to life at home without him here. I’m excited for him and the new adventures he’ll have, but I miss him.
Whether or not you’ve been through the same situation with your own children, we all know the pain and sadness of separation. We all have loved ones we wish we lived closer to or got to see more often. I’m thankful for phone and video calls that let us connect with our family and friends, but it’s not the same as being physically together in the same room. A hug, the squeeze of a hand on your arm, and a long chat over a cup of tea are simple but profound blessings.
Physical distance is only one type of separation. Many of us know the pain of strained or broken relationships. Sometimes friends grow apart or drift away from each other. Maybe a disagreement or misunderstanding came between you and a loved one. Or perhaps you had to cut ties with someone abusive or dangerous. Whatever the cause, emotional separation is excruciating.
From the world’s perspective, death is the ultimate separation. Loved ones who live across the world may call or visit. Broken relationships can often be restored. But death? There are no phone calls or potential reconciliations to ease the sadness of missing friends and family who have died.
Why does separation hurt so much? It hurts because we were made for community. In the beginning, when God created Eve, He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). We need each other. As Ecclesiastes says, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
Separation pulls and tears at the bonds that connect us. Even separation for good reasons, like children growing up, going to college, getting married, and starting their own families, remind us that we were created to share our lives with each other. Death reminds us that we were created for eternity and that sin changed everything.
When God created the world and humanity, everything was very good. Adam and Eve lived in harmony with each other and the world around them. They walked and talked with God. There was no separation, no pain, no grief, no suffering, no death. Consider the consequences of their sin in Genesis 3. First, Adam and Eve hid from God. In their shame, they couldn’t face Him. The relationship between God and humanity was broken. Sin separates us from God.
Next, Adam turned on Eve and blamed her (and God) for his sin. As we see in Genesis 3:16, the relationship between Adam and Eve was broken. Sin separates us from each other. Cain hated Abel and killed him, and we’ve been asking, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” ever since.
God cursed the ground because of Adam’s sin. The world around us is fallen and broken. Our work is painful and hard, and death awaits us all. If that were where the story ended, life would seem pretty hopeless.
Sin brought pain, suffering, and death. But even as God told Adam and Eve the consequences of their sin, He promised redemption Eve’s seed who would crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15). Paul explains that though we were dead in our sins, God loved us and saved us:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Separation hurts because it reminds us of all we’ve lost, and so we grieve. Our hearts ache, and we’re lonely. We miss loved ones and long to see them again. But because of Christ, sin and death and separation don’t have the final word. We have hope in Christ. He has conquered sin and death.
Because of His death and resurrection, we are no longer separated from God. The temple veil was torn, and we have access to God through Christ. We are united to Christ through the Spirit, and nothing can separate us from Him:
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Rom 8:35, 38-39
Our broken relationships may not all be restored in this life. But through the work of the Spirit in our lives, many are. We are given new hearts to love each other. And one day, Christ will return, and we will never be separated again. No more suffering, no more sin, no more pain, no more sadness, no more separation. All things will be made new. Until that day, He is our hope and our comfort.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Rachel Green Miller is the author of Beyond Authority and Submission. She is a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and a popular blogger at A Daughter of the Reformation.