Our Teenagers Are Longing for Reunion with Jesus

This article is the next in a monthly series that will examine the theme for this year’s upcoming conference, Rooted 2022: Living Hope, Walk Through 1 Peter. As we experience the pains of a perishing, defiled, and fading world, our hope can feel distant or idle. Yet, in Christ, we are born again to a hope that is both living and active. We no longer have to count our trials as foes, but can rejoice in a hope which does not put us to shame, knowing it is offering us a gift more precious than gold — a tried and true faith. As we survey 1 Peter together, our prayer is that we would have renewed eyes to see that which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us by our living hope!

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or so the saying goes. While this proverb can seem trite, I have experienced its truthfulness. During several stretches of our dating relationship, my wife and I were apart, working in different places. While I was away from her, I would ache to see her again and felt my affection for her growing even as we were separated. I still experience this when I’m away on a trip or at conference, and now the feeling is magnified as I miss my four kids with a similar, pleasing pain. FaceTime helps, but it’s a cheap substitute!

When our love is true, we ache for our loved ones when we are apart. As we anticipate our reunion with them, the joy that flows out of our love only increases in the expectation of a good hope being fulfilled.  The teenagers in our homes and youth ministries experience this longing all the time.

The teen years are those where our longings are more readily apparent. Teenagers ache to seen, understood, and accepted by their parents, friends, and mentors. We often observe this longing pouring out of them through their messiness, contradictions, and sin struggles. They long for affirmation and encouragement as they sort through the complex feelings associated with the all-encompassing transition to adulthood. Whether they realize it or not, the teenagers we love are aching for the same thing as us: for the Lover of their Souls and his consoling presence.

Longing for Jesus

As we continue to journey through the book of 1 Peter, this is what the Apostle is trying to communicate about our blossoming relationship with Jesus. While walking through the heart-wrenching experience of spiritual exile, he wants to orient our gaze and ground our hopes in our certain reunion with Christ. At the same time, Peter is honest about the painful quality of separation that strangely cultivates our love for Christ. He captures the ache that lovers and family members being separated for a time feel when he writes:

“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” (1:8).

The ache and longing for Jesus is amplified, because, unlike our earthly loved ones, we have never seen Jesus in person! We look upon him with the eyes of faith as we peer into and cherish what the Scriptures have revealed about him as our risen Lord and Savior. It is because we have not physically seen Jesus with our own eyes that we yearn even more deeply for the coming reunion.

As with our earthly loved ones, our love swells and is even purified as we long for him during the separation. As far as Peter is concerned, this growing love finds its source in our faith —“you believe in him and rejoice.” Though we have not seen him, we love him and we love him because we have believed on him as he has been offered to us in the gospel. As we foster this belief, even and especially in a time of spiritual exile, our joy grows – even to the point of being “inexpressible and filled with glory.”

A More Expansive View

By God’s grace through our faith in Jesus, although He is now absent physically, we may now obtain “the outcome of our faith, the salvation of your souls” (1:9). Peter has a full salvation in view for the people of God—one that is accomplished by Jesus, applied by his Spirit over the course of the Christian life as one learns to walk in holiness, and completed in glory on the day of the Lord Jesus’ return. We need this more expansive view of our salvation, and so do our teenagers.

In the recent hit Disney movie Encanto (2021), each member of the Madrigal family receives a unique, magical gift when they come of age. While each gift transforms the recipient personally, it also has an effect on their room in the family home, Casita. When Antonio comes of age, he receives the gift of being able to communicate with animals. As he receives his gift, the door to his room is illuminated with a vibrant, illuminating magical power. As Antonio approaches the door and enters his room, he finds that it has been magically expanded into an vibrant jungle. His family and the community are welcomed inside to celebrate. As they enter, one little girl exclaims, “Wow! It’s even bigger on the inside!”

This is what our salvation in Christ is like! It is beautiful, glorious, and the cause for great rejoicing as we enter into it by faith. But, as we press further and further into our new life in Christ, we come to see that it is far more beautiful and expansive than we could have ever imagined at first. Yes, because of our sin, we are far worse than we could ever imagine. But, in Christ, we are far more loved than we could ever dare hope! This is the gospel as it has been described by so many before. [1] This grander view is what Peter wants us to see and hope in, especially when we are in a time of spiritual exile—physically separated from our Savior for a time.

Things Into Which Angels Long to Look

Even the angels long to observe, examine, and look into this salvation (1:12). It fills them with wonder too! Not only is the fullest of this salvation that to which all of the prophets beforehand were pointing (1:10-11), it is at the center of angels’ regular, recreational enjoyment. This reality is much more remarkable than it may seem at first glance.

Think about how magnificent angels are. They are created, spiritual beings who serve at the pleasure of God himself.[2]  They are wondrous and fearful. They’re always having to tell folks in the Bible: “Do not be afraid”—because they’re terrifyingly glorious. The Apostle John, who we could argue had the best theological training of all by living with Jesus for three years, mistakenly bowed down to worship an angel twice! In each case, the angel replied, “You must not do that!  I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God” (Rev. 19:10; 22:9).

Don’t miss this! These incredibly glorious beings that the Apostle John mistakenly worships are themselves longing to look into the salvation that God has unfolded for you and me. What a salvation! What an enduring source of hope and joy for us and the teenagers we love, even in times of exile, suffering, and persecution.

My friends, as you seek to parent faithfully and lead your youth ministry in a time of seeming exile, forget not the Lover of your souls. And don’t forget the great salvation into which you’ve been graciously made a part—that is expansive and secure. Out of this certainty and joy, rest in peacefulness and serve with gladness. Our Heavenly Father wants us to experience this fullness, and he desires the teenagers we love to experience it as well.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but the certain hope of reunion leads to fullness of joy.

 

[1] I’m paraphrasing Dr. Jack Miller, Dr. Tim Keller, and others here in this summation of the gospel.

[2] I’m indebted to Rev. Joe Novenson for pointing this out in a sermon in a way I’ve never forgotten.

About The Author

Greg Meyer (MDiv, Reformed Theological Seminary; BSE, Mercer University) serves as the Assistant Pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Tuscaloosa, AL. Prior to this, he served in youth ministry for over a decade at churces in Missouri, Mississippi, and Georgia. He is the author of A Student’s Guide to Justification and has served as a conference speaker with Reformed Youth Ministries. Greg has written for the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding (CPYU), Modern Reformation, and Orthodoxy Orthopraxy, Covenant Theological Seminary’s blog. He also blogs on his own site Moment-By-Moment. Greg and his wife, Mary Jane, have four children.

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