Inexpressible Joy

“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)

I was asked last Sunday morning at church, “Mike, how are you?” I enthusiastically started my response by saying, “Great! I am doing great!” But very quickly, I remembered the reply I was ‘supposed’ to give. “Well, actually…my father-in-law had a liver transplant several weeks ago; my grandpa passed away the week after that; my grandma is struggling through alzheimer’s in a nursing home; my wife is overwhelmed with the kids being home on a cold, winter day; and, I just got word that my other grandpa fell, hit his head, has not regained consciousness, and will very possibly die soon.”

As soon as the enthusiastic response departed my mouth, I recalled how I was expected to answer the question, “How are you?” Given the circumstances, most people would expect tears of sorrow or a ‘woe is me’ attitude. In fact, my response even surprised me. It is far from our cultural norm to say, “I am doing great!” while experiencing deep hardship.

I don’t—in any way—intend to be rude or insensitive, but in my experience (which is limited, considering I am only 34 years old), most of us tend to translate the inquiry, “How are you?” to “How do you feel about the way your circumstances are affecting you?” We often times consider the events that take place in our lives to determine our attitudes or states of being. I am guilty of this, seemingly constantly.

Daily, I allow my circumstances to affect my attitude about life. When I am overly hungry, my attitude is cranky. When I am tired, my attitude is repugnant. When the budget gets tight, my attitude is anxious. Needless to say, circumstances, at times, directly impact my attitude.

Because this seems so often to be the case, I was surprised when I responded differently last Sunday at church. My heart honestly felt great! Although grief and sorrow were real and alive in my heart, they could not touch the joy that trumped them.

Please don’t misunderstand—circumstances should impact us! If God did not intend life’s happenings to shape us in some way, He would not have given us our senses—sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. These provide evidence that God desires us to feel the world. God not only allows us to go through difficult circumstances, but He also intends that we would go through struggles, so as to grow and shape us for His glory.

However, when circumstances function as the primary navigation tool of our attitudes, we miss out on God’s best. In fact, when we view our attitudes about life through a circumstantial lens, our worldviews are self-centered—everything is about what happens to us; the world is seen as having a spotlight on our own lives.

We naturally tend make everything about ourselves. We see those things that happen to us as the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in our lives. We also tend to narrowly look for how we can be benefited, rather than others. This is true for all of us. Even as Christ-followers, we focus on the benefits of following Christ, rather than on Jesus Himself. Although we should celebrate the forgiveness of our sins, the enlightenment that comes from God’s Word, and the hope we have in Heaven. But, even these wonderful gifts (circumstances) should never become more delightful than knowing the Person of Jesus Christ.

I understand that it seems to be an impossible task to see how the world centers around Christ when all we can see in a particular moment is that which is through two small eyeballs in one tiny corner of the earth. But the truth is, people live, die, and are forgotten everyday. Even the most famous of people gradually become distant historical figures, of whom are known increasingly less. Simply put: Life is not about us or the things that happen to us. Everything—from the world in which we reside to the daily happenings of our lives—is about Jesus and His glory. And this is not a bad thing. This is the most amazing truth we can ever comprehend.

Jesus is sovereignly reigning over all creation. Jesus is the centerpiece of all things…and, He has our best in mind.

And when we realize this and come to a place where we delight in Jesus—for who He is—we live differently. We answer the question—“How are you?”—differently. We can live with an inexpressible joy that grief and sorrow cannot touch, even in the very real troubles of this world.

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