By Susie Frederick

The apostle Paul traveled many places preaching about Jesus. One of these places was the city of Ephesus. After Paul had been in Ephesus for a while, a silversmith named Demetrius stirred up the people to make trouble for Paul and the other Christians. Paul left Ephesus then, and traveled to other places spreading the gospel. But Paul did not forget the Christians in Ephesus. He had grown to love them, and was concerned about their spiritual welfare. So, as Paul was on his way to Jerusalem, and passed near Ephesus, he requested that the elders of the church in Ephesus meet him at the port of Miletus. When the elders came, Paul encouraged them to keep the church pure, and to be on guard against false teachers. He also told them what was going to happen to him personally: he would become a prisoner for Christ’s sake. He would see them no more.

This made the elders very sad, for they loved Paul. The Bible then tells us how they reacted to this news: “Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship” (Acts 20:37-38).

Once, at a Christian’s funeral, I heard a preacher tell the family that they should not be sad, since their loved one was assured of a better home than the one she had left. I thought, “How inappropriate!” It is true that we should not feel sad about the circumstance of the Christian who has left this present life (see 1 Thess. 4:13). But it is normal and expected that we grieve because we will see that person no more in this world. We miss the people we love when they are not with us. Our grief is not for our departed Christian loved ones, but for ourselves. Even when the person we miss is still living on the earth, we are sad when separations occur — especially if we know that we will not be seeing them again. The Bible hints at no shame in the sorrowing of Paul and the Ephesian elders. They loved one another, and the sorrow was to be expected.

There are other natural times for sadness, such as at the illness or pain of a dear one, the rebellion of a family member, or the time when an adult child leaves your home to establish his own home. But in every circumstance, we know that God is in control. He will not allow us to experience more sadness than we can bear, with His help (1 Cor. 10:13). He provides strength and hope and peace for His people. Let us remember that, and lean on Him during our times of great sadness.