Wednesday: Psalm 42, 43, 44; Genesis 49.1-27; 1 Corinthians 16.1-24

From: Jeff Banks

Goodbyes can be awkward.

A friend moves away, and we say, “I won’t say bye because we’ll see each other soon,” knowing full-well we won’t see that person for a while. Why? Saying a proper goodbye seems stiff and formal, and it’s much easier to avoid the whole thing.

In our Scripture passages for today, we meet two men who are saying goodbye to people they love. Their example can teach us about what it means to say goodbye well.

We meet Jacob on his deathbed, when he calls his sons to himself to issue his final words of wisdom and warning. Now, it’s not all hopeful and encouraging: he calls Reuben “unstable as water,” not something that I’d like my father to call me with his final words (Gen 49:4). Jacob speaks truthfully, not sentimentally, and that means calling things as he sees them.

Nevertheless, with at least some of his sons, he speaks blessing over them. Joseph will be made strong, says Jacob, “by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breast and of the womb” (Gen. 49:25).

Goodbyes are awkward and painful. (Just ask Reuben.) But they are also the opportunity for blessing. If we avoid the awkwardness and pain, we miss the grace that others can impart to us.

Notice how Paul bids farewell to the Corinthians in our other passage: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.” (1 Cor 16:23). We say this phrase (or a variant of it) all the time in church. When we mutter it, do we realize all that we’re saying? We are telling people that even though all kinds of anxiety and fear will attend them as they make their way through life, our prayer is that beneath and beyond all of those negative emotions they might experience grace upon grace from the fullness of the Lord Jesus (John 1:16). 

What would life be like if instead of minimizing the reality of loss we looked our family or friends in the eyes and told them how much we love and will miss them and want God to bless them when they are gone? To tolerate the awkwardness or pain of it, but only to soak in the blessing that can come when we speak honestly to the people we love. Etymologically speaking, after all, goodbye means “God be with you.” If we did that, we’d become people of both truth and grace. That’s a goal worth pursuing.

New to Boston and CotC, I’m a soccer-loving, curry-cooking, music-playing campus minister with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I blog very occasionally at jeffwbanks.com.