“Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
-Juliet to Romeo
Ironically for the Christian, these words reflect the weight our ‘good-byes’ (which means God be with you). We wish people farewell desiring God’s presence to accompany them.
Saying ‘goodbye’ is a reminder, too. It reminds us that we’re finite. That is, when we wish God’s presence to go with another, we are confessing our lack of omnipresence; that the best way to care for a person and be mindful of their welfare is to desire the care that only God’s presence can give. The Apostle Paul wept with the Ephesian elders on the shore right before his departure “because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again” (Acts 20:38). It’s natural to cry when we say good-bye as a humble expression of our limitation to not be everywhere at the same time with them.
Further, it reminds us that life is transient. Hardly anything is stable in this world. Life is a revolving door. The Christian feels her own transience more acutely and makes sense of it because it is part of her very identity. The history of God’s people is one of unsettledness, tent-living, uprooting and always moving. God wired them for that frustration and longing for permanence. That is why some of the New Testament writers refer to believers as strangers, exiles or pilgrims.
Finally, farewells remind Christians of a blessed coming reunion. When you say “goodbye” to another believer knowing that you may never see them “again,” don’t worry, it’s just temporary. Because the next time you see them could very well be the splendor of heaven. Perhaps, there are no more comforting and breathtaking words in Scripture like these: “Then we … will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18).
“God be with you till we meet again; By His counsels guide uphold you,
With his sheep securely fold you; God be with you till meet again.”
“Till we meet, till we meet, till we meet at Jesus’ feet
Till we meet, till we meet, God be with you till we meet again.”