Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. (2 Corinthians 6:17)
Most often, separation doesn’t feel good. We get comfortable in our relationships, habits and preferences — sometimes even when they may be harmful, or at the very least, not beneficial. We often struggle with removing what’s detrimental to spiritual growth and personal benefit. Separation, by definition, implies a removal of something we currently have and usually represents a disturbance in our comfort zones. Resistant to change, we tend to avoid it at all costs.
Separation from things is bad enough. Being robbed, suffering bankruptcy or foreclosure, or losing everything in a house fire are examples of highly traumatic separations from things we consider valuable. But most things can eventually be replaced. On the other hand, relational separation hurts much worse. Even Jesus, when He was dying on the cross, cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) Separation from His Father, though only briefly rupturing their eternal relationship, caused Jesus indescribable anguish.
The loss of relationships — whether through divorce, death, estrangement or irreconcilable differences — hurts deeply. The emotional severing with previously trusted people involves excruciating pain.
Marriages disintegrating into separation involve incredible pain. Future dreams and plans get discarded. Hearts are broken, lives devastated. Friendships and social circles are called into question for betrayal or support.
When children are estranged from their parents, it hurts. Confusion reigns as children challenge parental advice and protection while parents wonder what could’ve been done differently to guide children away from choices, journeys, habits or friendships they know will eventually be harmful and regrettable.
When friends betray relational trust, it hurts. Trust erodes into suspicion. Guarded secrets become vulnerable to public knowledge and scrutiny. Deception and disloyalty rupture the very nature of relationships as they tear apart what used to be near and dear.
And yet, removal is frequently valuable — though we may not see it at the moment. Removing cancerous tumors is beneficial to health and well-being. Forsaking addictions or sinful habits is invaluable in many aspects of life. Pruning disloyal friends helps us regain the credibility of social circles and support groups.
Yes, separation hurts. And yet, God sovereignly orchestrates all events — coordinating even the associated pain — to bring about His ultimate purpose while transforming us into His likeness.
Although God often separates the bad from the good and the good from the best, He even separates the best from the best. Sometimes His chariot and horses of fire separate so He can perform greater things. The story of Elijah and Elisha illustrates this vividly.
Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them (2 Kings 2:11)
Ever since Elijah anointed Elisha as his successor and began mentoring him, they were understandably inseparable (2 Kings 2:1-6). Even when Elijah knew their time together was drawing to a close and asked Elisha to stay behind, Elisha refused.
But separation became necessary because God planned to take Elijah where Elisha couldn’t go. So God sent His chariot and horses of fire. Without it, Elisha risked being whisked away in the whirlwind meant only for Elijah. God’s fire of separation accomplished several things. It refined as it isolated the uninvolved. It ended one ministry while starting another. It appointed one man to reward and the other to service.
Yes, Elisha grieved the loss of his mentor and friend. However, he didn’t let post-separation deter him from his purpose. He retrieved Elijah’s fallen mantle, revisited the scene of God’s fire falling from heaven on Mount Carmel, and proceeded in a ministry that included twice as many miracles as Elijah.
If God already has separated, or is in the process of separating, something from your life, first identify whether it’s the removal of the bad from the good or even the good from the best. If it’s a separation of the best from the best, trust that God is sovereignly orchestrating all the details according to a purpose only He may ever know. Then begin to walk in His new “fire separated” purpose for you.