Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. 1 Thessalonians 2:17 (NLT)
“Longing: a yearning desire.” Just reading that word and definition reminds me of times where I laid brokenhearted longing for something- a job change, my knee to miraculously heal, or a loved one to not feel the sting of death. These were all moments that I truly cried out to the Lord asking why and longed for those circumstances to change. I know every one of you has experienced some sort of longing.
Though only a few verses, Paul is making profound statements. Paul uses the Greek word aporphanizó, which can translate to the english word, bereaved. That word means, “to be deprived of a loved one through a profound absence, especially due to a loved one’s death.”
I basically can see Paul’s heart bleeding to be with these Thessalonians. He felt that he left them stranded, on their own as orphans. If you remember from our previous read, he had to leave earlier than expected. Not only that, but he tried again and again to get to them, but what? Satan prevented them (v 18). Let’s just rub salt into an already open wound.
However, I love that Paul acknowledges the fact that Satan has a role in this. Paul is aware of where the real battle is being fought.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
I believe that when we recognize that our true battle is in the unseen powers of this world, we already won. It constantly fixes our gaze back up to Heaven, which in turn frees us from the responsibility of fighting Satan alone– and thank the Lord for that.
Paul couldn’t reach the Thessalonians in person because of Satan’s evil ways, so what does he do? He writes. Satan can put up every road block he can muster, but he cannot prevent the word of God from sounding forth. And because Paul wrote, you and I are able to read it together about 2,000 years later and grow in our faith. Praise the Lord.
Now, to finish up this part, he ends on a beautiful saying, “Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” (v 20). These verses unpack all that Paul was feeling: longing, deep sadness, frustration, but it ended with encouragement and pure joy. It was because he longed that he felt joy. It was because he felt frustration that he felt victory. Are you getting this? All of these go hand in hand!
After we put our trust in Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, the battle has already been won. We may feel the heaviness of longing or the deep sadness of death, but without those feelings, we wouldn’t be able to feel the comfort from our Lord and begin to understand the victory He won on that cross. Jesus said it best Himself, “In this world, you may have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Let’s rest in knowing that we serve a God who is big enough to overcome this fallen world, but loving enough to care about every longing our hearts feel.