In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Pet. 1:6–9)
The year 2016 marked the centennial anniversary of America’s National Park Service. In celebration of the anniversary, a particular issue of National Geographic contained some amazing photos of several parks—as only National Geographic can capture. Now, I pride myself on having a Jed Bartlet-like appreciation for the national parks, so when I looked at these photos, I was captivated. They were unlike anything I had seen. In a single image, you could see both day and night, shadow and light, sun and moon. The photographer, for hours at time, took thousands of pictures, and with the aid of technology, “compressed the best parts into a single photograph.” The result is a massive and sweeping image comprised of thousands of smaller photos. Yet, the more I looked, the less certain I was that I liked it. For these photos are attempts at seeing what is not meant to be seen— a full day all at once. The scenery was beautiful, yet odd. It was unnatural. Frankly, it wasn’t real.
When we face trials for which we don’t know the outcome or don’t understand the purpose, and struggle with wanting to know all the answers at once, it is like we are wanting to see a full photo of the end and the beginning, in one frame. But were we to see such, I think we would be disappointed. It likely wouldn’t make sense, for it is neither real nor what God intends. God, in his kindness and wisdom and mercy, uses trials and hidden things to draw us closer to himself, and even when we can’t understand the outcome or the purpose, joy is revealed in the process.
After Peter reminded his exiled readers that they have a living hope in a God who has saved them and will strengthen and sustain them to the end, he turns to address their trials and suffering.
THE END OF SUFFERING
When enduring the onslaughts of a cynical age, we’ve seen how looking in to find Christ Jesus, our living hope, cannot only sustain until the end of time, but also provide strength for the present. Peter rightly acknowledges that this kind of reliance will lead to joy, much like the supportive James 1:2 that instructs believers to “count it all joy” in the face of trials. With the end still in view, Peter also reminds that these trials are only “for a little while” (1 Pet. 1:6). This is not Peter’s attempt to minimize them or belittle the pain and challenges they produce, but to offer another bolster of hope that even the longest of trials will, in fact, end. Trials and sufferings are a part of a post-Genesis 3 world. They were not what God intended when he created the world. Whether the result of sin, physical malady, or material loss, trials and sufferings do not escape the believer in Christ (John 16:33) and, indeed, can serve as painful instruments of the evil one.
As we behold and experience the trials that are a shared burden in this world, believers often understandably question why God allows such to happen. Even though God, in his faithfulness and wisdom, may never allow his children to have the full understanding of why he permits suffering, Peter’s words here give a great deal of insight and help. Trials, of all kinds, test our faith in crucible-like ways—ways that will show the greatness and goodness of God and result in our greater praise to him. This is, in part, because he endures the trials with us. The living hope we have of Christ himself within us is even better than the appearance of an additional man alongside Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:25). Through Christ, in every trial we have a shield of faith “with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one (Eph. 6:16). When we are tempted, God is faithful and “will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but . . . will also provide the way of escape” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Often the way to rejoicing is the way of weakness through suffering, and a powerful New Testament portrait of this is the life of the apostle Paul revealed in 2 Corinthians. As J. I. Packer explains in is marvelous book Weakness Is the Way, the testimony Paul gives shows
"pain and exhaustion, with ridicule and contempt, all to the nth degree; a tortured state that would drive any ordinary person to long for death, when it would all be over. But, says Paul, Christ’s messengers are sustained, energized, and empowered, despite these external weakening factors, by a process of daily renewal within."
Paul begins 2 Corinthians declaring that “we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9). From this reliance comes “good courage” (2 Cor. 5:6) and the ultimate lesson that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Packer writes Weakness Is the Way from personal experience. He has lived a life of “physical and cognitive weakness” due to a head injury as a child. Yet, Packer’s early learning to rely on divine strength has sustained him. Writing in his eighth decade, after recovering from hip replacement surgery, he shares of his growing “acquaintance with Satan’s skill in generating gloom and discouragement.” Yet, in these years, he reveals, “[m]y appreciation of 2 Corinthians has also grown as I have brooded on the fact that Paul had been there before me. . . . The whole letter is an awesome display of unquenchable love and unconquerable hope.” By looking in at Christ Jesus, both Paul and Packer show us the way to the fountain of our hope.
LOVING WITHOUT SEEING
Much like C. S. Lewis’s Orual, Peter’s readers never saw Jesus in the flesh. Yet, despite their exile, trials, and sufferings, they loved him and believed in him. Peter’s commendation of them comes from a man who knew something about faith without seeing. Peter was there when Jesus, in response to Thomas needing to see to believe, said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Of course, Peter also knew much about love for Jesus, as part of his early discipleship involved his restoration by Jesus asking him three times about his love (John 21:15–17).
Therefore, when Peter writes of this faith and love resulting in an inexpressible joy (1 Pet. 1:8), he writes of what he knows. When he was with Jesus before the crucifixion, Peter saw him with his eyes, but did not fully love him. Only after the Resurrection, did Peter truly see Jesus with love and joy—and then once Jesus ascended to heaven, Peter continued to love him even without seeing him—to an inexpressible extent.
While the believer’s joy may not find adequate words for expression, we can get a glimpse of why by the idea that it is filled with glory. In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul recounts the time Moses came down from the mountain and—his face being filled with glory to such a degree that the Israelites could not look at him—wore a veil (Exod. 34:29–33). Yet Paul says that the Spirit has “even more glory” (v. 8), and believers in Christ are able to “[behold] the glory of the Lord” (v. 18) and will one day see Jesus face to face.
Jesus Christ remained Peter’s fountain of hope, even though Jesus was no longer on earth. Thus, Peter relays how much more it is true and possible for other believers to love Jesus without seeing him.
 Patricia Edmonds, “Photography That Layers Time,” National Geographic 229:1 (Jan. 2016): 144.
 A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6:75.
 J. I. Packer, Weakness Is the Way (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 99–101.
 J. I. Packer, Weakness Is the Way (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 99–101.
Excerpted with permission from Mere Hope: Life in an Age of Cynicism by Jason G. Duesing. Copyright 2018, B&H Publishing Group.
Jason G. Duesing serves in academic leadership at Midwestern Seminary and is the author of Seven Summits in Church History, and editor and contributing author of First Freedom: The Beginning and End of Religious Liberty, Adoniram Judson: A Bicentennial Appreciation of the Pioneer American Missionary, and other works. He is married to Kalee and together they have two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve.