Come out from them and be separate (separation), says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. [2 Corinthians 6:17, parenthesis added]
Why do we resist or refuse separation? What is it that makes us hold onto harmful things and people? Could the very thing we avoid be what we need the most? Could separation be a good thing?
Most often, separation hurts. Just ask any young child suffering separation anxiety. Even though his or her parent is in the next room, the child freaks out. We become comfortable in our relationships, habits, and preferences. Yes, sometimes even when they may be harmful, or at the very least, not optimal. It hurts to leave someone or something we cherish. We don’t like giving up what we value. However, we also struggle with removing what hurts our spiritual growth and personal wellbeing. We excuse “the hell we know” and refuse to embrace positive change.
Separation is the removal of something we currently have. Its departure usually upsets our comfort zones. For example, look at the current coronavirus quarantine and “shelter in place” mandate. It has separated us from friends, coworkers, and families. Most people are locked away in the “virus-free” safety of their homes. God, the Sovereign Orchestrator, uses even a virus to separate people around the globe. But, He often orchestrates separation to call out, redirect, and purify His own.
What a strange world it has become. Comfortable routines and habits have been turned upside down. Working virtually is the norm. People “zone out” on nonstop Zoom sessions. Understandably, we do most shopping online. Businesses are restricted regarding how many people to allow in at a time. Some stores only allow people to flow through in one direction. Yes, separation is often uncomfortable.
Relational Separation Hurts Deeply
Separation from things is bad enough. Robbery. Losing a job. Bankruptcy. Foreclosure. Losing everything in a house fire. These are just some examples of highly traumatic separations from things we value. However, most things can eventually be replaced. Yet, relational separation hurts even worse. It even affected Jesus. While dying on the cross, He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” [Mark 15:34]. Separated from intimate fellowship with His Father, though only briefly, caused Jesus indescribable anguish.
The loss of relationships hurts deeply. Divorce. Abandonment. Death. Estrangement. Irreconcilable differences. No matter the reason, they hurt. Severing emotional ties with previously trusted and cherished people, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, involves excruciating pain.
- Disintegrating marriages involve incredible heartache. Separation and divorce rips apart previous lovers and best friends. They destroy future dreams and plans. Irreconcilable differences break hearts and devastate lives. They make friendships and social circles choose either disloyalty or support. The effects and scars last for lifetimes.
- When children are estranged from their parents, it hurts. Confusion reigns as children challenge parental advice and protection. Parents wonder what could have been done differently. Maybe different decisions would have steered their children away from harmful and regrettable choices, journeys, habits, or friendships. The broken bonds of parental safety and trust are difficult to overcome.
- When friends betray relational trust, it stings. Trust erodes into suspicion. Guarded secrets become vulnerable to public knowledge and scrutiny. Deception and treachery rupture what used to be near and dear. Betrayal promotes mistrust and resistance against vulnerability in current and future relationships.
Resistance to Change
A basic human characteristic is to resist change. That said, we tend to avoid separation at all costs. And yet, removal may be exactly what we need though we may not recognize it at the moment. Removing cancerous tumors is beneficial to health and wellbeing. Forsaking addictions or sinful habits is invaluable to many aspects of life. Even pruning disloyal friends builds deeper integrity in relationships. However, we usually focus on the painful process instead of the long term benefits.
Yes, separation hurts. Some human relationships are for life. Sadly, others are for mere seasons. Some people walk beside us for years while others part ways after only a short time. Yet, God sovereignly orchestrates all people and events—coordinating even the associated pain—to bring about His ultimate purpose while continuing to transform us into His likeness [Romans 8:29].
But not all separation is bad…
(Click here for Part 2 of this series)