The Pain of Separation

There have been a few families that have left our church over the last several months.  Families we have enjoyed fellowship with, prayed with, studied with, worshiped with.  Families that helped the church and that were helped by the church.  Families that have helped us and that we have helped.  Families that in so many ways have been *our* family, and the separation brings pain and heartache.  I know and believe that God works all things together for good, for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose.  It might be easier if these wonderful people were wicked and apostate, but they are not.  They have just decided to go somewhere else to worship and to have fellowship.  Some have gone several hundred miles away, and others remain in a stone’s throw.  Some are visiting other churches, some are starting their own. 

Is there anything really wrong with this?  Are we not all of us trying to work out our own salvation with some degree of fear and trembling, yet at the same time trying desperately to overcome our vicious pride?  Even the Apostle Paul took hard the perceived “waywardness” of young John Mark when the youth decided to take a different way than the Apostle.  This initial separation left Paul and Mark estranged for many years, to the point that their strained relationship caused a sharp disagreement and yet another separation with Paul’s faithful companion, Barnabas.  Yet by God’s grace He brought reconciliation to these men so that Paul could write in what was most likely his final epistle to Timothy (another of Paul’s beloved travel companions), “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” 

Oh blessed God, that YOU heal all wounds.  Too many say that “Time heals all wounds”, but time is but Your servant and if you choose, a means of grace.  But Father, You Yourself are the healer and restorer of broken hearts, for we see far too often those things that time heals not at all, but only worsens their condition.

I pray, O Father, that You would forgive us sinful men.  We are sick with pride and as You revealed to Your prophet Isaiah, even our best deeds are as filthy rags.  A covetous heart is lived out through the eye, always searching for some new desire.  But pride is the beam that blinds it.  God, forgive me for my own.  I know that many of us who have been effected by disruption and disharmony in the family–whether within the family that is our church, or the family that is our home, and whether by divorce and separation, or like a child coming of age and leaving their nest–even when time proves out that it is for the good, the moment of separation is painful and too often words come forth from a broken heart, embittered and full of hurt.

James tells us right when he says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”  Oh that this wisdom would truly break the calloused surface of my heart and root itself effectually. 

My dear friends who have left our fellowship but who remain in our faith: Too many hurtful words have been spoken, too few helpful heard.  Too much pride and not nearly enough humility.  Too much said of (and to) men, yet not nearly enough to God.  Too much focus on “my” hurts, and not nearly enough focus on another’s healing.  I am guilty.  I have failed to walk in love as Christ loved us.  I struggle most days to love *my* bride all too poorly.  How much more poorly must I love His own?

My Lord and my God, forgive me of my pride.  Forgive me for my selfishness, and grant all of the wounded of your flock the gift and grace of mercy that we may share it with each other, most especially those whom we have hurt or by whom we ourselves have been wounded.  Help me pray for my brothers and the members of Your family who have left this house to build another.  And God bless the work of their hands, direct the path of their feet as they carry forth Your good word.  Let us not lose sight of the only important thing, that Christ is preached and God’s glory proclaimed.

Forgive me, my brothers, for any harm I have done, for any unhelpful or harsh words I have spoken.  I love you and miss your fellowship.  And in that, I know I am not alone.  I have prayed for you, yes, but not nearly enough.  May God prosper you in His grace, and grant you favor in His work.  Keep the faith, brothers.  “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”

Yours in Christ,
Paul

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