When I think about some very tough times I’ve been through that, at the time, didn’t feel like they would ever end (read chapter 25 Are we there yet of my book First to Forty), I remember in the midst of it reading Psalm chapter 30 verse 5: ‘…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.’
Oh, how I longed for that morning to come! Verses like these are what I clung to in those moments. It was these verses that gave me hope in the gravest of circumstances even though, at the time, I had no idea when that morning would come—or if it ever would come.
We don’t always understand why we have to go through difficult things. At the time it may make no sense and feel like there is no way out. When we feel like this, there is often a temptation to give up, to cower in the difficulty of the moment, or to cry out to God and ask why?
Is it actually ours to know why everything happens? Though we don’t know why, God does, and as we get through to the other side of the trials, and even a few years down the track—we may even find ourselves thanking God for it! Sounds crazy I know! Why would we thank God for things that caused us great pain, turmoil and loss?
The first thing we have to acknowledge is that we will get through it, but first we have to go through it. Often we will feel like we are being broken during these times, and often we are. But there is beauty in brokenness.
In Luke chapter 22, we see the disciples sitting with Jesus at the last supper. For some reason, they began disputing who among them was considered to be greatest. Not long after Jesus settled that matter, by explaining that the greatest in the kingdom of God must have the heart of a servant, he turned to Simon Peter and said:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke chapter 22 verses 31-32)
These are very profound and revelatory pieces of information Jesus is giving Simon Peter (also known as Peter) at this point in time. Peter didn’t fully understand just yet, but he was about to go through some severe testing.
Peter replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Jesus responds to Peter and reveals that Peter would indeed deny him three times by the time the rooster crowed. Obviously Peter thought this was not possible, he loved Jesus very much.
Knowing all that was about to take place, Jesus also warned the disciples to pray so that they would not fall into temptation. Part of this temptation was, of course, that Satan had asked to ‘sift the disciples as wheat’ and Peter would be tempted to deny Jesus.
God allows testing for our good
What is amazing here is that, when Satan asked God if he could ‘sift the disciples as wheat’, Jesus steps in and prays on their behalf. But he does not pray for this to be stopped. He knew, in his greater knowledge and wisdom, that though this would be a time of testing for them, it would reap great benefits for generations right throughout time from that moment to now.
You see, Peter had the choice in the events to come, of how to respond, yet, the response he chose was one he would greatly regret later. God still used it for good.
Jesus’ prayer for Simon Peter was not that this trial be taken from him, but that his ‘faith would not fail’ and that when he has turned back, he would strengthen his brothers (v.32).
Why did Jesus not just pray that they be protected from this trial and that God would reject Satan’s request? Because Jesus knew that greater blessing would come from this trial, and greater faith would be developed in Peter which he was going to need for the rest of his life in ministry.
When Peter realised that he had denied Jesus three times when the rooster crowed, ‘The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.’ (Luke chapter 22 verses 61-62)
Simon Peter’s anguish at betraying Jesus spurred on his faith to be stronger than ever before. Great forgiveness spurs on great love (Luke chapter 7 verse 47).
When the women reported the empty tomb to the disciples, most thought the women were talking nonsense, but Peter, in all fervour, ran straight to the tomb to see what had happened (Luke chapter 24 verse 12). Nothing was going to stop him from finding his Lord and Saviour again.
We then read in John chapter 21, Jesus asks Peter three times—as many times as Peter had denied him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Three times Peter replies, “Yes lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus gives him three commands, “Feed my lambs”; “Take care of my sheep”; “Feed my sheep”.
And here we see Jesus’ earlier prayer for Peter revisited:
“And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke chapter 22 verse 32)
Peter was about to enter a new era of ministry; the greatest ministry of his life was about to begin. This next leg began with failure, but this failure aligned him with the posture of humility he needed to have before God for God to be truly glorified in his life.
Jesus knew Peter would overcome, and that he hadn’t given him more than he could handle. He knew that Peter’s faith was strong from the beginning and the truth was rooted deep within his heart. Even though Peter failed, God’s words over him remained, and his failure was brought round in mighty strength to work for good, and cement a faith stronger than he had ever had in order for him to complete the good works that God had begun in him.
‘Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew chapter 16 verses 17-20)
For Peter, there was purpose in his pain, and all things worked for his good because he loved the Lord. To this day, we are blessed and encouraged by his story, and by overcoming and holding onto God’s promises in trials, people can be blessed by our stories too.
‘I am coming soon. Hold onto what you have, so that no one will take your crown.’ (Revelation chapter 3 verse 11)
© Rebecca Moore 2020
As published on Christian Today Australia, 19th August, 2020