This has been quite a week.
Sunday–Resurrection Sunday–I found myself overwhelmed by the joy of my risen Savior. Overcome by gratitude in remembrance of my Easter baptism several years ago, and the picture of grace baptism is.
But I am so spiritually immature. And foolish.
For on Monday morning, not even 24 hours after celebrating what God had done through the death and resurrection of His son, I found myself swallowed up in very real despair. And, a rarity for me, actually, very real anger. Seething anger.
The circumstances do not matter. The sin does. And because real anger is not often in my sin repertoire (don’t take that wrong, my repertoire of sins is enormous–it’s just that anger is one of the less experienced ones), I was shocked by the power of it. And the difficulty of shaking it. Even today, the tenaciousness of it wants to grab a hold of my soul and I am having to still fight it back actively.
Yes, once again I have failed, and failed hard.
And, once again in failing miserably, my soul wells up with old familiar refrains: “You are a failure. Only a failure. You cannot be forgiven. You don’t deserve God’s love.” And the despair grows deeper.
But this week, through some reading I have done, I accidentally came across a verse. A verse that I’ve read before, but have never considered before. And definitely have never seen myself in it. But there it was, just as if it had been highlighted with one of my big, fat Yellow Highlighters that I love so much:
Luke 22:31-32 (ESV)
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Jesus is speaking to Peter here. Stubborn, arrogant, foot-in-the-mouth Peter. Who seems to make so many blundering mistakes that it is almost comical, if it wasn’t so sad. Or–and I’m presuming this–so frustrating to Peter himself. He doesn’t want to be a failure–this is the guy who assured Jesus he would never deny Him! This is the guy that wants so badly to “get it right”. To not mess up! Yeah. This is me. Maybe it’s you, as well.
But in these two simple sentences from Jesus, there is hope for Peter. And hope for me, who fails daily.
This verse assures me that Jesus knows. He knows I’m going to fail. To fall. To mess up. Often. This is not a surprise to Jesus.
Good grief, it seems as if I have been sifted like wheat this week. Yep, yep, yep. And many weeks. Many days.
But where is the hope??
It’s right there. It’s right there in the following things:
- Jesus prayed for Peter. How amazing is this? “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail”. Jesus is our intercessor. He prays for us. Whew. I know I don’t deserve that. And neither do you. But it is truth, He prays for us, that our faith will not fail. I was certain–CERTAIN–at the beginning of this week that my faith was going to fail me. Was failing me. In fact, it wasn’t until yesterday that I saw glimpses of faith. No, it hadn’t gone away. It wasn’t “lost”. It was, however, temporarily overshadowed by my sin. And by extreme despair. But in mercy yesterday, God brought me to these words in scripture. And the shadows began to dissipate some, the cloud of despair began to lift some, and I began to glimpse fragments of my faith–which I am clinging to tightly right now, even as I right, even as I continue to fight the remnants of sin and despair.
- “And when you have turned again,” Wow. Six words..only six words, but full of such hope. Jesus is saying to Peter, with absolute confidence “Peter, you will turn back to your faith. You will fail. You will sin. But you will return to me. To grace. Often, when I fail and hope seems to flee, I become convinced that God will give up on me. Why shouldn’t He? Why shouldn’t He? But He is faithful. He is faithful to lead me back to repentance. To lead me to my knees seeking His forgiveness and a return to faith and my only hope of survival–Him. Only Him.
- But it doesn’t end there. No, there is a comma, and then after that comma there is a command. A command for Peter to strengthen his brothers. Why is this hopeful? Why is a command hopeful? Because there is much hope in knowing that God has work for you to do. People for you to minister to. At one point I thought that door would be closed to me forever, due to my sinful nature. Due to my ex-husband’s incarceration. Due to my failure. But a verse was recently shared with me that gave me tremendous hope that God does have work for me to do. It’s found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
God has mercifully granted me–and my crew–tremendous comfort in ALL of our affliction. Affliction that has been, hurtfully, very public. And also, affliction that is extremely private. Tremendous comfort, through His grace. But this comfort is not just for the my sake…just so that I will be comforted. No, it is because this statement in 2 Corinthians is like Paul’s statement to Peter: there is work to be done. And so, with the comfort that I have been granted, I–this woefully sinful and failure of a person–am to comfort others who are in ay affliction–using the comfort that God has given me.
Do you see? Do you see what tremendous hope lies in that command? In that gift? It’s nearly too much to take in.
So, today, I will continue to fight sin. And despair. I will continue to find myself, once again, in need of real grace and repentance. Embarrassingly so, because I wonder “Will I ever get it right? Am I destined to be Peter all of my life?” And I know I will fail again. And again. And again.
But I will also be grateful, because of the hope that Jesus gave to Peter (and me) in Luke 22. And in the tremendous hope that He gives me in 2nd Corinthians 1.