For those familiar with my writing, you may know that the last few years have been far from jolly for my husband, Josh, and me. We miscarried babies, lost jobs, and struggled financially to name just a few situations. With the birth of Victoria Joy and the new job for Josh, we are certainly experiencing happier times but a season of sadness was not too long ago. And I must confess, during that time of disappointment, I felt let down by others. As I looked around, I saw people living what seemed to be ‘Pinterest-perfect’ lives. They were getting their hearts’ desires and they were busy living a life full of hope! And then there was me. Physically and emotionally battered. Alone. I felt devastated. Guttered. Broken. I felt like the church was too busy celebrating those with happy lives and they failed to be present when I most needed a friend.
The thing is, Jesus knows this feeling all too well. We think that the only let down He encountered was when Judas betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver but I think there was another let down that hurt just as much.
Peter was a trusted disciple of Jesus. He is often brought into Jesus’ inner circle and Jesus even said He would build His church on the rock that is Peter. In Matthew 26, we read about the moments running up to Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion. He was in emotional turmoil. He was grieving and praying so hard that he even sweated blood (Luke 22:44). It was His ultimate moment of vulnerability and need. So He asked Peter, along with James and John, to come with Him and pray. He was struggling and He needed support.
It was a matter of hours since Peter had declared his unfailing friendship and faithfulness to Jesus (Matthew 26: 33-35). Like Rick Astley, Peter promised that he was never going to give Him up, he was never going to let Him down and never turn around and desert Him.
But when Jesus needed him, Peter fell asleep. He was not there for Jesus. He was not present. If I had been Jesus, I would have been disappointed and hurt by Peter. Peter promised to defend and fight for Jesus and he failed. And it’s not like it happened only once. Jesus went away three times and each time He found Peter, James and John asleep (Mathew 26: 36- 46).
But what Jesus did next is the real kicker. He didn’t behave like I behave when people fail me. He didn’t walk away from Peter and put up an emotional boundary. He didn’t withdraw, but instead articulated His frustration and kept moving forward! ‘“Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”’ (Matthew 26: 45-46).
We know what happened next. Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead. But what if Jesus hadn’t forgiven Peter? Or had forgiven him but said, “You know what? You can’t be trusted. So I am going to drop the plans I have for you and use someone else to build my church”??? The New Testament and history would look very different. Jesus saw the bigger picture and He did not allow one person’s failings to hinder Him.
As I emerged out of a pain-filled season and began to embrace a time of joy, these scriptures encouraged my heart. Jesus gets it when we feel let down. He gets it when we are facing our deepest pain and those we trusted are nowhere to be seen.
I was challenged to let go of my disappointments and move forward in community with my loved ones. Did I feel let down? Yes. But can I let my unfulfilled expectations determine my future? NO!
We like to talk about love, community and fellowship in the church but the truth is that these come at a cost. We are called to love, and carry on loving, even when the going gets tough. It’s tempting to retreat from people and to hide behind our faith because it is the easy option. We claim we are ‘guarding our heart’ but if we are honest, we are keeping things easy and convenient. We think we are OK because we are praying and staying tight with God. But the bible is clear, we could have the most incredible relationship with God, but we don’t love one another we are as annoying as a loud, clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:2).
I am not saying that we should put ourselves in a position where we are being emotionally abused or manipulated, but when people have failed us without malice, we need to forgive and move forward. We need to love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7 The Message, emphasis mine)
Jesus shows us a brilliant example of love, forgiveness and true community. And my prayer for you today is that you can encounter Jesus in your pain and disappointment. May He inspire you to love those who have let you down. It’s not easy but since when has the easy road ever led to success? May you hear His voice saying, “I get it. I know you’re hurt and I feel your pain. But I am with you and together we can do this. Forgive and let’s move forward. You are part of a bigger picture. The best is yet to come!”