“Though you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”–1 Peter 1:8 (NIV)
I confess that I have a naturally gloomy outlook. It’s getting better, thank God, but joy has been an elusive concept for me. Imagine my surprise, then, when I really looked at this verse in 1 Peter, one of the so-called general epistles.
Unlike Paul’s usual practice, Peter did not write either of his epistles to particular congregations. He did not address them to any local issues. He intended that they be read, believed, and applied in any congregation. I am part of a local congregation, and therefore it is addressed to me and my local church body as much as it was to any of Peter’s contemporaries.
Here is what it says: 1) I have not seen Jesus, but I love him. 2) I do not see Jesus now, but I believe that ultimately I will. 3) I am filled with joy.
Jesus had died, risen, and ascended to heaven before any of Peter’s readership ever heard of him. They had no advantage that I, living much later, lack. I have no trouble believing that I love Jesus. I have no trouble believing his promise that he will return.
How, then, can I have trouble believing that I am filled with joy? What this verse tells me is that, while my mind naturally turns to the negative, joy is nearby, within me. I can stop wondering how to find joy. I can train my mind to turn away from negativism and towards the joy that is already a part of my spirit.
Someone else’s struggles may be very different from mine. Someone else may have no questions about joy at all, but stumble over something else. Ultimately, all Christians must face one question, though: when we read a promise in Scripture, do we really believe it, or merely agree with it? Will we allow it to change our thoughts, words, and deeds?