Separation Anxiety

Saying good-bye can have a sharp painful edge, but the Lord soothes and comforts us.

Katherine Martin

Neither the sparkly, princess backpack nor my positive pep talk seemed to make a difference. It was the first day of preschool, and my daughter was experiencing separation anxiety.

IT’S NOT EASY TO SAY GOOD-BYE

As she dressed for school, her anxiety showed itself as a barrage of incessant “What if . . . ?” questions. On the way to school, it escalated from quiet whimpering in the back seat into full-fledged crying by the time we arrived. Finally, in culmination, my quiet, complacent daughter resisted entering her preschool classroom with a doorframe death grip. As I pried her tiny fingers off the doorframe and put her into the capable hands of her teacher, my own tears began to flow. Earthly separations can create strong emotional reactions.

As adults, we continue to experience separation anxiety. We may have moved far from family, said good-bye to dear friends, or stood at the grave of a loved one. Although we may no longer whimper, scream, or attempt a doorframe death grip, we may still feel that same desperate apprehension. As we watch loved ones walk out of our earthly lives, this apprehension can often give way to loneliness, grief, and despair.

The elders from the early Christian church in Ephesus knew it too. Paul sent for his friends from Ephesus as he headed to Jerusalem, fully aware that prison and hardships may await him. He sensed he wouldn’t see these dear friends again and wanted to say good-bye and encourage them with the gospel. We read of their tearful good-bye, “They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again” (Acts 20:37,38).

SEPARATIONS ARE ONLY TEMPORARY

But through the tears, Paul offered some powerful words of comfort: “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). Paul committed the Ephesian elders to an almighty God who is not limited by distance or location. More important, Paul entrusted the souls of his dear friends to the Lord who had won them an eternal inheritance. Because of Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and the devil, Paul, the Ephesian elders, and all who believe now have an eternal inheritance that can never “perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:4).

As that lump of anxiety rises within, our Savior comforts us too. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. . . . In my Father’s house are many rooms; . . . I am going there to prepare a place for you. . . . I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3). In spite of the heartache that earthly separations may cause, in Christ, they are only temporary. In Christ, good-byes are only a “see you later.”

After my daughter’s first day of preschool, I was waiting for her with open arms. Even as she grew into a teenager and we now are separated for school across the Atlantic, my position does not change. My arms are still open. How much greater is the unconditional love of our perfect heavenly Father! He stands with open arms offering us the grace of his forgiveness and bandaging our broken spirits with his balm of healing.

And one day, those open arms will usher us into his heavenly mansion where our separation anxiety will be replaced with joy forever.

Katherine Martin and her husband, WELS Civilian Chaplain Joshua Martin, live in Spiesheim, Germany.

 

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Author: Katherine Martin
Volume 101, Number 9
Issue: September 2014

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