A Reflection on Endings
I hate endings. I always have, and for as long as I am on this earth, I always will. The emotional pain often manifesting itself as tangible physical pain, the ache and longing for what once was, the jarring realization that things will not return to their former state. Endings are an inescapable part of life on earth. And like so many other aspects of our broken world, they are a form of pain I often wish would simply disappear. I long for the stability of a life without change; or perhaps more accurately, I long for a life made up of the disjointed moments in my broken life where I experienced the most joy and fulfillment. There are distinct moments I can point to that I often long to experience one more time. Those friendships kept alive over text but with the missing element of real physical interaction, places where I have felt the Lord's presence most prominently that I eventually had to leave, seasons of joy that came easily that have ended much more abruptly than I would like. Endings make us feel empty. The devil works in them and through them to steal our joy, torment our souls, and occupy our minds. Whether we are able to put a name to it or not, the resounding cry we hear in our heads during times of mourning endings is the cry to feel filled. The desire to hold onto something that does not change. We long to stand on firm ground in a world that often feels as if we are lost at sea. Our hearts ache for rest from the emotional toll that the continuous stream of endings on this earth takes on us. It could be anything: graduation, the death of a loved one, the ending of a long-term relationship, the last day of a good job, the last day of a summer working at Tap. Whatever it may be, each one of our lives is filled with the changing of seasons. Ecclesiastes tells us that "for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). But what are we truly longing for? The simple answer is Christ. But it goes beyond that. We long for perfect communion with Him. We long for a world free from sin because we were created for Him. Paul tells us that "the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now" (Romans 8:22). But he goes further than that. He also says that "we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons" (Romans 8:23). Our souls are groaning. They lack something and they are crying out in the pain that being separated from that one thing brings them. But these are not verses void of hope. We do not groan eternally, we groan as we wait. As we wait. In this current moment, we are waiting for the day that we will be united with our God, our joy will be complete, and all pain and suffering will disappear. And from that day into eternity, there will be no more endings. "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:22). The longings we feel to return to former seasons of life often occur because those were seasons where we felt closest to the Lord. On the other hand, sometimes we feel nostalgic for seasons in our life where we were outwardly rebelling against God. Sin was enjoyable, our rebellious natures ran unchecked, and Satan ruled our lives. If you miss times like those, that is the devil himself. He lies to us, telling us that we were happier when we did not follow hard after Christ. There is no ultimately good desire that lies underneath missing times like those- there is just an enemy who seeks to deceive us and lie to us. But if the seasons and relationships we miss are ones that drew us closer to Christ, it is natural and without sin to be angry at having to leave those things behind. God is righteously angry throughout the Bible, and that is an attribute that we can hold as well. Anger at the sinful nature of our world that rips us away from people we love and seasons of great peace and contentment is a right response. It is not right to react in that anger and take it out on those around us, but feeling that anger is right. God hates sin, therefore we should too. This was not how the world was created to be. So the next time you are grieving the ending of a good thing on this earth, remember that that longing points to a deeper desire to return to the Garden, to perfect communion with our Lord. It points to the sinful broken nature of our world, and it is good and right to be angry at these things without being overcome by them. "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28). It is only in Christ's strength that we can stand on solid ground in an ever-changing world. It is only through His comfort that we can learn to take the changing of seasons with grace, looking to His strength in our times of mourning instead of to a world that will only reinforce our discontentment.