Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5, ESV).
Last time we began looking for help for life’s problems from God’s Word, particularly Peter’s first letter. We were reminded that followers of Jesus are never really alone because God has chosen them to be with Him. Today, we will consider where to look for help with life’s problems.
Depression and Anxiety
These three verses are among my favorites in this letter. Of course, you may find me saying that more than a few times in this series. I find that they offer hope in dealing with two key problems many people face in life. Some have only minor experiences with these problems. Others, even faithful Christians often struggle mightily with them. These two problems are depression and anxiety.
At the risk of over-simplifying two issues that can be quite complex, let me offer one way to view depression and anxiety. Depression can be viewed as negative feelings experienced in the present often based on feelings and experiences in the past. Similarly, anxiety involves negative feelings experienced in the present based on feelings and fears based in the future. We will see that Peter uses these three aspects of time: past, present, and future; to help us move our thoughts and feelings from our troubles to something much better.
One thing that is common to our various experiences of suffering in life is the tendency to lose hope. Yet, our Lord does not want us to ever lose hope, so He gives us Himself. Jesus Christ, the whole Christ, the Christ we find in God’s Word, reveals Himself to us so that we may have hope.
Peter understands suffering and the periodic loss of hope, so he immediately prepares his readers to praise God. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v.3a)! Peter wants his readers to get their minds off their suffering and on their God. Praise moves our souls and we open ourselves to hear His truth: that we are under His providential and loving care every moment of our lives.
Having opened our hearts to God through praise, Peter begins to solidify the hope that is in us by giving us concrete reasons to have hope, even in times of suffering. So again we ask: Where can we find help to deal with life’s problems and maintain hope? Peter tells us to look to the past, to the future, and to the present.
Look to the Past
Our memory of the past cuts both ways. It can help us develop a living hope or it can significantly hinder the development of a living hope. Painful memories of the past often fill our hearts with thoughts and feelings that claim we should have no hope. When we are under stress, these memories come into our consciousness, partly because they match what we are feeling. But notice where the focus is when we do this? It’s on us. It is not on God, whom we are called to bless, praise and worship.
There was a time in my life when I was feeling depressed about what was going on in my life. I was feeling as though I wasn’t achieving all that I should. I couldn’t seem to get a break and it seemed that nothing I tried was working to improve my situation. At this time, I remember telling my wife, “I just want a win.” Looking back later I had to admit that I was being quite near-sighted; focusing only on myself and my problems, but not on the bigger picture of all that God had done for me. Interestingly, Peter warns his readers in his second letter about becoming nearsighted to the point of blindness, having forgotten that we were cleansed from our former sins (2 Peter 1:9).
What I was completely forgetting at that time was that my Lord gave me (and all of us that trust in His Son) a big win. “God, in His great mercy, caused us to be born again to a living hope” (v.3b). God had mercy on us. And it is a mercy we did not deserve. Further, He caused us to be born again. He did for us something we could never do for ourselves. It was this rebirth that produced our faith in His Son. We see more about this faith later.
Our rebirth is the past event Peter calls the suffering Christian to remember. As we learned last time. God chose us elect exiles. He caused us to be reborn. He began a good work in us that He will be faithful to complete (Phil 1:6).
Peter also writes that God works through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. What does the resurrection do for our hope? It is a surety. The Christian faith is not a blind leap nor is it rooted in some kind of mystical experience of life-change. No. Our salvation is the result of an event that happened outside of us in datable history. So, we know the God who raised Jesus from the dead is surely capable of fulfilling all He promises. And just as the risen Christ lives, we have a living hope.
So, where do we look for help with life’s problems? We look to the past. But, we take our focus off the problems that occur because we live in a fallen world and fix our hearts on two connected past events that give us a living hope: our rebirth in Christ, which is anchored and made sure by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Both of these events are important to help us truly comprehend our hope.
Look to the Future
Next, Peter points us to the future. The future is particularly important for those suffering from anxiety, which is a view of the future without hope or with defective hope. Peter reminds us of what our future has in store for us: “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (v.4a). We have an inheritance from God our Father. That sounds like another big win!
The first thing that such an inheritance brings to mind is that we are part of God’s family. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we have been adopted by God and He is our Father. As our Father, God has an inheritance waiting for us in heaven. And it is not like any earthly inheritance, that is limited and frequently squandered by the heirs. No, this inheritance is imperishable. We can never exhaust it. It is undefiled. It will not lead us to wrong but is pure, because it was purchased for us by the blood of Christ Himself. It is also unfading. It will always be the very best inheritance possible because it is from God Himself. Finally, it is kept safe in heaven for us. Think of where you keep your valuables: a home safe or perhaps a safe deposit box at a bank. These cannot match the security of heaven, where our inheritance is kept perpetually safe for us.
Our future gives us hope because we are members of God’s family. And as members of that family, we have quite an inheritance waiting for us in heaven. Further, our inheritance is guaranteed by God Himself. We can say together with the Apostle Paul, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18, ESV).
Look to the Present
But what about the present you might ask. It is in the present that we experience depression, anxiety, and a myriad of other life problems. It is in the present where we need to have a living hope.
The past and future are what give us hope in the present. As we look back to the past (all that God have given us) and forward to the future (all that God has in store for us), we can have a living hope now! And remember, living hope is not like the common understanding of hope. It is not blowing out the candles on your birthday cake and hoping you get a pony. A living hope is so much more. The late R.C. Sproul describes it this way, “In biblical categories, this hope is the certainty and the fullness of assurance that God will do in the future everything that He says He will do.” It is a hope that gets into the heart…right where we need it.
But as good as all this is, Peter adds more to the present to increase our hope. He reminds us that we are being guarded by God’s power through faith (v.5a). Think about that. What do most people rely on for security? Perhaps they have a dog or a gun or a professionally monitored security system. Well, we have a security system that includes 24/7 monitoring by an all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere-present God. How much better hope in your safety and security does that provide you?
In the present, God has given us yet another really big win. He guards us through faith–that faith that He granted us when He caused us to be reborn. But remember, the key is not the faith, but the object of that faith. And the object of our faith is the one to whom the writer of Hebrews tells us to fix our gaze as we run through life in the present. The object of our faith is Jesus Christ, the founder and perfecter of that faith (Heb 12:1-2).
Where to Look for Help with Life’s Problems?
Peter’s answer to our question is look to the past, the future, and the present. But as you look, don’t focus on your story. Focus instead on God’s story, where He, through Jesus Christ, is redeeming a world and a people for Himself. As we do this, we begin to see all that God has done for us, all that He is currently doing for us, and all that He has promised to do for us. That kind of focus will give you living hope, even in times of trouble.
So as you fix your eyes upon Jesus, it is always good to remember to be quick to hear and slow to speak.