When I was in elementary school, I was pretty attached to my grandparents, who, unfortunately, lived far from us. But a few times a year they would come to visit for weeks at a time.
Hope Wins Over Loss
By Wilona Karimabadi
When I was in elementary school, I was pretty attached to my grandparents, who, unfortunately, lived far from us. But a few times a year they would come to visit for weeks at a time. It was always a welcome treat for me, for it involved some bending of the weekday rules: delicious treats always ready after school, late-night story time, and many other elements typical of grandparents who know how to spoil their grandkids. To me, their visit made the day-to-day routine of school, homework, and strict bedtime seem much more lighthearted and vacation-like.
Those fun days would roll by quickly, however. And before I knew it, we’d be at the airport saying goodbye. Then it would be back to the normal routine, which felt devastating, because, let’s be honest, in most cases grandparents trump parents. They would promise a phone call on arrival, saying that it wouldn’t be long before we’d be together again, but I don’t remember that making me feel a lot better. Perhaps I was an overly sensitive child, but after their plane disappeared from view (this was before September 11), I’d literally sink into depression. I’m not kidding—I would cry every day, roam listlessly around the house, and generally not be able to smile. Thankfully, this malaise would last only about a week. But I behaved as if I were in mourning. So much so that my parents quickly grew frustrated with my tears and sullen face, reminding me that my grandparents were very much alive and only a phone call away. But it wasn’t the same.
Sure, I knew I could hear their voices whenever I wanted to, but that amounted to nothing in comparison to their physical presence—to seeing them and being around them on a daily basis. To this day, I still remember how lost I felt when they’d leave, with a void in my stomach where nothing seemed fun anymore and I just felt so utterly sad.
Those Poor Disciples
I’ve been working through a one-year nonconsecutive Bible reading plan, which, at the time of this writing, has me in week 40 of 52. It’s been a fulfilling experience, as I’ve been reminded of scriptures I’ve known and loved, and delved into many new ones, some leaving me awed and others causing me to scratch my head. But as I’ve read through the Gospels and recounted the disciples’ experiences with Jesus, I have really felt for them, for during Christ’s crucifixion and eventual ascension, their sense of loss had to have been horrible.
After years of walking and talking with their Savior, the One for whom they had left everything and everyone to follow, He was gone. I can just imagine how they felt in those dark hours after He died on the cross. Of course they knew what He had taught them. And I imagine they believed in His promises never to leave them, even if they could no longer be in His physical presence. But it had to have felt so bittersweet when He returned to heaven.
We do know that after His resurrection, He didn’t leave them just yet. “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave them many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).*
The disciples asked the Lord about His plans to restore the kingdom of Israel. Perhaps in their human hearts and minds they wished for Christ to come through in the way they always thought He would, accomplishing the redemption of His people once and for all, right then and there. I’m sure they hoped against hope that at the end of it all their beloved Savior wouldn’t have to actually leave them again. But Christ reminded them that only the Father had the time frame absolutely right. In the meantime, however, He really was planning on making good on His promise to be with them always and, most important, to empower them. “But you will will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (verse 8).
A Promise Made Good
As my grandparents would encourage me over the phone once they made it to their own home safely, I believed that it really wouldn’t be long until we saw each other again. And after my weeklong depression finally abated, it got easier to look forward to that. Being busy with tasks at hand—school, friends, childhood life—certainly helped.
The disciples had big tasks of their own to accomplish now—to go and tell. Christ had challenged them to preach and teach in His name, establishing His kingdom on earth, preparing His people for His eventual return, a work that continues with us. I’m sure it had to have felt overwhelming to even think of what lay ahead as they watched Him taken up into the sky until that cloud hid Him from their sight (verse 9). But Christ wasn’t about to leave them without more encouragement—awe-inspiring encouragement.
“They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’?” (verses 10, 11).
I believe that in that moment their heavy hearts were lightened with that one element that still eases our burdens today: hope.
My childhood sadness was finally quelled with the promise of seeing my beloved grandparents again, and soon. And when they passed away years later, my adult sadness and the longing I still feel for them from time to time is again quelled with that same hope. I will see them again, and soon.
This hope carried the disciples forward. And it is that same hope that carries us forward today, until we reach that moment when goodbyes will truly be a thing of the past. What a lot we have to look forward to!
*Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version.Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.