On failure, regret, and the Apostle Peter

I’ve been thinking about the Apostle Peter this week.  Peter, with his jump-both-feet-in-the-water-without-thinking-ness.  Peter with his bold, confident, outrageous statements of devotion to Jesus.  Peter, with his three times denial, aching heart, tears of failure and loss.

I often think, that had I been alive during the time Jesus was walking the earth in the flesh, if I had believed in him, I would have been a lot like Peter.  Passionate, impetutous, confident defender of the faith. I also wonder, had I been faced with possible imprisonment and death for my being one of his followers, would I have crumbled into a heap of denial the same way Peter did?

The thing about Peter is this – his story is more about his failures than his successes. Before Peter could walk on the water with Jesus, he had to learn the hard lesson of sinking first.  Before he could become the leader of the church, he had to experience deep regret, failure, remorse and restoration. So the thing is this,

God recycled Peter’s failures into something good and useful.


I write often about the difficult things in life – circumstances that cause pain  – and how God takes those circumstances and recycles them into something good and purposeful in our lives.  Not until this week, when I was reading The Ragamuffin Gospel, have I ever considered that God recycles my failures, even my sin into something useful.  Now that’s mind-blowing to me!

Brennan Manning writes:  The limping of Peter’s betrayal of the Master, like so many of our own moral relapses and refusals of grace, was not a terminal failure but the occasion for painful personal growth in fidelity.

What?  His SIN was an occasion for personal growth?  Yep!  And as Augustine wrote paraphrasing Romans 8:28:

That for those who love God everything works unto good, even sin.

Had I been Peter, and heard that rooster crow, realizing I had just denied knowing the man whose life and words I counted as my life’s blood, I imagine that I would have been devastated in the deepest recesses of my soul.  How could I? Why did I? I’m such an idiot! I would have felt failure, deep, sinking, agonizing failure.


Immediately the rooster crowed the second time.  Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept. (Mark 14:72)

Sorrow.  Humiliation.  Agonizing disappointment.

Jesus did something so tender and loving for Peter.  After his resurrection, when he was having breakfast with Peter and some other of his disciples, he asked him three times, “Peter do you love me?” After answering yes three times, Peter was hurt.  Doesn’t he believe me?  Peter got to tell him he loved him three times.  No more denial.  Only restoration. Peter didn’t have to defend himself.  He didn’t have to explain why he did it.  He didn’t have to spend days, weeks or years paying the price or working to get back in the good graces of Jesus.  He was already forgiven and his relationship was restored.

Jesus’ forgiveness for us is so much greater than we can understand.  And thank God for that.  Because if it was all up to me, we’d all be doomed.  Deny me once?  You’re out!  Instead, our sin is opportunity for God to take what is broken and turn it into an intimacy with him that we would never know without it.

I’m working on that this week.  I’m remembering that forgiveness is already given.  As Brennan Manning writes, Forgiveness precedes repentance. We are already forgiven.  We only need to receive his grace and accept his pardon.  If we think we need to grovel and suffer for it, we are dead wrong.

Will you remember that too?  Will you give yourself a break, and watch for the small signs of God working something good in you?  He is.  Always. Everyday.  Thank him for that.


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