Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
[…continuation of, ‘Through The Darkest Night‘]
Have you ever tasted that feeling..? The despair you feel, when one fine day you stand exposed by your actions. When what you have done, belies every good you’ve ever believed yourself to be..? Emptied of all reason to love yourself for who you are..? Emptied of all reason to believe that those who see you for who you are, could ever love you in truth..?
In Peter’s brokenness, there are lessons to take for all of us who have ever tasted such pain. For one, while Peter was unaware of his weakness, God was not. He always knew him for who he is…
When Peter proclaimed, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death,” Jesus had no reason to believe, for He knew him. In fact, He prophesied the failing of His disciple. In the Last Supper, replying to Peter,
Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
When the Christ looked at Peter that night, as he denied Him the third time, there could’ve been a mix of emotions in the expression on Jesus’ face. But if there is one thing He couldn’t have been, He couldn’t have been surprised. For He had known Peter all along, even the ‘Peter,’ that Peter hadn’t yet known.
Your failings can take you by surprise, but you can never do anything that surprises the Lord. Your actions are but a reflection of the condition of your inner being. And He has always seen you, even to the depths of your soul. If your inner strength has limitations, He knows. If your moral fibre is falling apart and you’re hanging by the last thread, He knows. Trust me, He knows.
But is this a good thing that He knows..? Those of us who have lived life with secrets too dark to bare with ease, will know of the dread that takes over at the thought of being exposed to the glances of people. We do long to be known, even despite the scars and gaping wounds. That we may never deny. But there are consequences in letting people in.
What if there are consequences in being known by Him too..? That I’ll leave you to decide, whether Him knowing us, is Good News or not. But before you make that choice, let’s delve deeper into the person that is Simon Peter, and his relationship with the Christ…
The hours passed since the denial, and Peter’s loneliness continued. Put yourself in Peter’s place for a moment. Imagine him in his despair. He had bailed out on his Friend. The purest of souls He was, and Peter had let Him down. Here he is, hearing one news after the other: “Jesus has been sentenced. He has been crucified. Jesus has died. He has been buried.” Peter sinking deeper and deeper into the mire. “Happiness could never again be mine,” he could’ve thought.
Hopelessness all around. No thought could lend him solace. Peter could have remembered the time when Jesus taught the disciples that He, the Messiah, must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. Even if Peter could’ve found the strength to believe Him, could that thought erase his pain..? Even if Jesus did come back to life, would their relationship still be the same..?
“But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him.”
With the dawn of a new week though, the darkness began to recede, and the Light began to shine. The women who had gone to Jesus’ tomb, to anoint His body as per Jewish custom, returned in excitement with a message. Jesus Christ was no longer dead but risen, they said. They had seen the empty tomb. They had seen an angel, who told them that Jesus is heading toward Galilee. The angel urged them to tell the message to Jesus’ disciples.. and peculiarly, to Peter in particular.
“…tell Peter.” The other disciples could have wondered why those words were there, but imagine what those two words would’ve done to Peter. The questions that lingered in Peter’s head. The doubts that weighed like lead in his chest. Imagine, when the women brought in this message, what those two words would have done to all those doubts and questions..?
With those words, Jesus made sure that Peter was called by name. He made sure that Peter felt reassured that he still belonged. The Lord who knew Peter’s brokenness to the intimate details, cared for him with a love as intimate. As soon as Peter heard the message, the Bible says he ran to the tomb. Not a hesitant walk. He ran. Whether the others understood the depth within those words or not, I believe that Peter couldn’t have missed them.
Again, through the Christ, we get to gaze into the heart of God. Through His love for Peter, we know that He is a God of compassion. We know that the Lord forgives the worst of sinners. He forgave the man who denied Him to His face. He has forgiven even worse in me. And through Peter’s [and my own] experience with Him, we know that He doesn’t stop with forgiveness, but the broken heart of the sinner, He yearns to comfort.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
And there is more… The Lord knows our weakness, and He understands. He loves us despite our failures. That is Good News in itself, isn’t it..? But.. do you know where the Good News, becomes even better..? He doesn’t cease with comforting the broken hearted, but as we draw closer to Him, He heals all that is broken in us.
That hope, is the final learning from me from Peter’s night of brokenness. Peter’s life provides hope to all of us who have had the [mis]fortune of having seen our broken selves. Because all that Peter found missing within him on that fateful night, would later be found to abound in him.
The man who faltered when faced with the suspicion of a servant, would go on to become someone who would be bold to stand up for the Truth, in all circumstances. In prison. In persecutions. Even in death. Though he be weak, Peter found strength in abundance for through Christ Jesus, the Spirit of God worked in him. And Peter in the end truly became Peter, or as the name means in Greek, the ‘Rock.’
How dark are the nights that you are facing in your life..? Are they as dark as the night that Peter endured..? Perhaps they’re darker still..? Take heart. Morning will come. The Light will shine. Through the Christ there is reason to hope. The Lord who knows you by name. The Lord who has seen your tears. He is the Lord who calls to be Saints, the broken things of this world…
God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.
1 Corinthians 1:28
We could only guess, the kind of thoughts that raged inside his head. Danger surrounded Peter. He could have found enemies on the streets, in people he had never known. Worse still were the enemies working within him…
He had dared to follow Jesus. He had seen His power. He had seen His love. Peter believed Him to be the Messiah, who would establish His Kingdom on Earth. But instead of plotting a plan to take His deserved place, Jesus prophesied that He would die. He let Himself be taken captive by those who opposed Him.
Peter could not have understood then. When they came to arrest Jesus, He took up the sword to defend Him, cutting a ear off a servant of the high priest. But Jesus rebuked him. “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword,” He said, as He healed the wound Peter had inflicted. Jesus seemed almost as if He willed to be taken.
Peter fled the scene. His love for Jesus though, couldn’t keep him far. He must have remembered all those moments they shared. Even the moment in the boat when the Lord told him, as a man ensnared by guilt and shame, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus loved him like no one else had. He loved him in his weakness. He loved him in his strength. And Peter loved Jesus in return.
While the other disciples went into hiding, Peter followed Him to the premises of the high priest, where Jesus’ trial would be held. But that was as far as his strength could take him. When a woman recognised him as one who was with Jesus, his strength failed him. Fearing the worst, he denied even knowing the Lord. Before the rooster crowed to signal the end of that fateful night, Peter had denied Jesus thrice.
The third time, even as he was speaking, he looked in Jesus’ direction. The Lord had looked straight at him. Only hours earlier, as they shared dinner in the famous Last Supper, Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” But here he was, even the night hadn’t ended, and he had denied Jesus to His face.
And Peter went out and wept bitterly.
When he promised Jesus that he’d never leave His side, Peter truly believed that which he said. Other people may be weak enough to forsake their loved ones in the face of adversity. He would never, he must have thought. But in the end.. when it mattered the most, he did.
There is pain in disappointing the people we love. Peter must have felt that. But equally worse is the pain we feel in disappointing ourselves. Most of us could scarcely believe ourselves to be infallible. But there are certain wrongs that we could never believe we’d ever stoop to.
Each day of our life tends to add more to our understanding of who we are. Like pieces in a puzzle. Like a picture that we paint in our minds over our lifetime. But imagine, if in a matter of moments, all that you love about that picture – all that you believe to be the good in you – turned to vapour before your eyes, how would you feel..?
For all the faults he was aware of, Peter believed himself to be a man who would dare to lay down his life for the sake of those he loved. This was the man he was. This was the man he will forever be. But how wrong was he..? In the dark of that night, all it took was the suspicion of a woman to shatter the ‘Peter,’ that Peter thought he knew.
Have you ever tasted that feeling..? The despair you feel, when one fine day you stand exposed by your actions. When what you have done, belies every good you’ve ever believed yourself to be..? Emptied of all reason to ever love yourself for who you are..? Emptied of all reason to believe that those who see you for who you are, could ever love you in truth..?
In Peter’s brokenness, there are lessons to take for all of us who have ever tasted such pain…
[…continued in ‘His Light Will Shine‘]
In moments of depression, you may believe you’re all alone. Who is there to see you while the tears flow..? How could someone see your tears, when those tears wait for opportune moments..? To spare you of the pity of those around..? They only flow when you’re all alone. In those lonely nights, you toss and turn and drench your bed in tears. But.. are you ever really alone..?
Life off late seems in my eyes like an unending journey through the Valley of Weeping. I can say with confidence that though things have seemingly gone downhill, His grace has upheld me in the joy of the Lord at most times. But I would be lying if I said that I have never been overwhelmed to the point of tears. Tears that come out of a suffering within, too deep to express in any other way….
And almost always these tears are shed in moments when there isn’t another soul in sight. But even when I feel alone in those moments, there is One who is present.. even if I fail to notice. One who does not fail to notice even a single drop of tear that is shed. In one of those moments of silent suffering, this verse from Psalm 56, spoke to my distressed soul….
You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
But what about those tears that He sees..? Does He simply observe..? Is His heart filled with indifference..? When all seems lost and our eyes struggle to find a ray of light in the darkness, that could be how we see Him. But is God ever indifferent to our suffering..?
Through the Christ, God not only made an atonement for our sins, but through Him, God reveals His heart toward the children of man. Children who are loved without measure.
The shortest verse in the Bible, does a profound work in revealing the heart of God. When Jesus saw the tears of Martha and Mary and the people of Bethany, as they grieved the death of Lazarus, He wept. The Lord who knew that He was moments away from bringing Lazarus back to life, wept. The Lord who knew that this is the human suffering that He was to bring to an end, wept. The Lord knew, but still He wept. He wept, not because there was no future hope He could offer – for He Himself was and is our hope – but because He was deeply moved by the suffering and the tears of their present….
Does the Lord ever guarantee that our present will be free of suffering..? No. In fact, in John 16:33, He says that in the world we WILL face tribulations. No amount of religious living guarantees a life free of pain, in this life. But instead, He offers us something far far better. If we continue to look to our Lord for salvation, there is a future and there is a hope.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
There is coming a day, when no more heartache shall come. Nor will there be any tear to dim the eye. The God who wept over the anguish of His children, didn’t stop with His tears, you see. He descended from His High estate, and took upon our earthly frame. He endured all the pain that we endure, as sojourners in this sin stained world. He endured even worse, as He took upon Himself the sins of all humankind and paid the price such sins demand, on our behalf, on the cross. All that He endured, He endured so that we could arrive at the gates of His Eternal Kingdom, where He could wipe away our tears, and tenderly tell us, “No more….”
Until then, as long as He feels it necessary that we walk through this Valley of Weeping, we can lean on Him for strength. If even for a moment our situations overwhelm us, we can rest in the fact that the God who wept over our suffering, never fails to notice even a single drop of tear. And He will never forget, for He has each one stored in a bottle….
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Perspective. Adversity is one thing in life that enables us to see things in perspective. When we lose our health, we begin to realise how blessed we were just to be fully able. When we lose wealth that we were so accustomed to, we realise how rich we were once and how we may have never truly taken to putting it to best use. When we go through a time of deep depression, what wouldn’t we give to be able to taste a moment of peace in our soul, one more time..? Peace we once failed to even notice.
When people come out of a season of affliction, when all that was once lost is restored, life seems far more brighter than before, even if all that we have, is no more than what we once did. Take the life of Jonah, for instance. In Jonah 2, we read of his prayer to God from the belly of the fish. As he concludes, there is one line that captures my attention.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
Making a sacrifice, in order to serve someone else, isn’t something which comes easy to us. Our desires tend to take us on our own way, and to let go of that desire and instead spend on another, what we believe is ours – whether it be money, energy or time – isn’t something we readily do. And even if we do, how many times would we find ourselves doing it with ‘the voice of thanksgiving..?’
And that wasn’t what Jonah found himself doing either. In fact, he wasn’t even willing to serve God, at the beginning of this tale, let alone with ‘the voice of thanksgiving.’ Jonah turned his back on God, when he was called to serve Him, by being His spokesman in Nineveh.
The storm. Being castaway. The fish. We know what followed and that Jonah eventually found himself standing on the shore, heading toward Nineveh. But somewhere in between, we find the heart of this man transformed from that of one who thought it a burden to serve God and fled His presence, to one who willed to serve Him with ‘the voice of thanksgiving.’
When I was a child, when I was told of the story of Jonah, I always believed that this was the tale of a lesser man. I mean, if God calls me to serve Him, I would readily walk the path where I am lead, I thought. ‘What was Jonah thinking..? He must’ve been one big fool to turn his back on God.’ But it’s only as I’ve grown in faith, could I see that the tale of Jonah isn’t the tale of a lesser man, but of a man much like me.
How many times, when God has called me to serve Him with what I have, have I chosen to flee His presence..? How many times have I thought that what I have, is mine to use for my own pleasures, and to use it in His service, is to waste. Perspective. The right one, wasn’t something I had.
In the belly of the fish, Jonah who was almost stripped of all that he had, including his life, had time for contemplation. With his heart desiring a second chance to rejoice in all that he previously had, Jonah could see that all that he had were never in his power to either take or hold, but were given to him from God above. Jonah’s heart was transformed, from someone who believed it wasn’t worth to serve God, to a man who could see how grateful he ought to be to be able to.
Perspective. Jonah gained this, through the adversity in his life. I pray, that it is something I will gain through the adversity in mine, to serve the Lord with a voice of thanksgiving….
How would your life look, if you had the pen that writes the lines of your life, in your hand..? If you had the chance to change the things that came within the sphere of your existence, would you have diligently chosen all that you’re living, or have lived out..?
Lines though keep getting written without us wielding the pen. Would we ever write lines of darkness..? Would we ever write lines of fear..? Would we ever write lines of pain..? But there are times, when all these are just the passage to something far more desirable. If I had it in my power, I would never have written those lines in the pages of my life. But I thank God, the pen isn’t in my hand….
There are times when the road to Paradise, takes you through a vale of Hell.
Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Excerpts from C.H. Spurgeon’s sermon, ‘KEEPING THE SOUL ALIVE’, from the 27th of March, 1870.