Day 12

My Heart Fears Only Your Word

from the Psalm 119 reading plan


Psalm 119:161-176, Ecclesiastes 12:12-14, John 21:1-19

BY Guest Writer

Christians don’t just read the Bible. We enter into a life-long relationship with it. We read it over the course of a lifetime, knowing we will never exhaust all there is to know or glean from God’s Word. Often, when we return to passages we’ve read before, we come to them having changed since the last time we spent time with those verses. We go through things that shift how we see the world—vocational upheaval, marriage, divorce, parenthood, miscarriage, life-altering diagnoses, unexpected windfalls of good-fortune, and the like.

As we experience more of the joys and heartaches associated with living in this world, we look at Scripture through different eyes. Sometimes a theological idea we thought we had wrapped up in a tidy bow suddenly becomes shot through with questions we never thought to ask when we were younger and had not suffered much.

This is one of the reasons I am so drawn to the story of Peter’s reinstatement in John 21:1–19. Here we find Simon Peter, who was one of Jesus’s closest friends, sitting with the fact that he had denied Jesus in His greatest hour of need. He had done so exactly as Jesus predicted he would, even though he swore this sort of failure wasn’t something he was capable of (Mark 14:31).

I love the story because it’s about someone who appeared to have as good of a relationship with Jesus as anyone could have, and yet he himself was weak. When Jesus appeared on the shore cooking breakfast for His friends, and caused their empty nets to be filled with more fish than they could handle, Peter recognized Jesus, because this is the same way Jesus first called Peter—with a miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5:1–11).

When Peter jumped out of the boat and cast his drenched and dripping self at the feet of Jesus, he had no relational ground to stand on. He’d betrayed his best friend, his Lord. And yet, Jesus asked Peter the most simple and searching question imaginable: “Do you love me?” And Peter, paradox that he is, answered truthfully. He did love Jesus. He did. When Jesus said, “Feed my sheep,” He was hearkening back to when He first called Peter and told him He would make him a fisher of men. Peter’s failure did not disqualify him from Jesus’s love, or from Jesus’s call on his life.

I love this passage because it offers so much hope to people who go through seasons of struggle and failure and wonder if they have lost the love of God. Peter could do nothing but receive from Jesus. On that shore, he had nothing to offer. And yet, he longed to be near his Lord and friend. We know this because earlier, before Jesus was crucified, He taught that people would ultimately need to be nourished by His flesh and blood. It was a teaching many found too difficult to embrace, and they left. But when Jesus asked His disciples if they, too, would leave, it was Peter who said, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Peter’s story reminds us that the thing we must cling to most, and fear above all else, is the Word of Christ (Psalm 119:161). Though our circumstances change, and even we change, He does not (Hebrews 13:8). Where else can we go?

Russ Ramsey and his wife and four children make their home in Nashville, Tennessee, where he is the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church Cool Springs. Russ is the author of the Retelling the Story series and Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Post Comments (43)

43 thoughts on "My Heart Fears Only Your Word"

  1. Susan Crosby says:

    As I close on Psalm 119 I feel like so many of the key words are leading us to His Word. Precepts, Commandments, statutes and testimonies. God wants us to keep His precepts and we have to read and study it to be able to be obedient to the Word. God does not change and neither does His Word. We can’t change it to suit ourselves and have to be so careful to make sure we interpret the Word as written.

  2. Dayna R says:

    Thanks Lisa May! I needed this today. ❤️

  3. Lisa May says:

    I don’t know if the She Reads Truth team intended this connection or not, but I love the tie between the close of Psalm 119 and the John 21 account of Jesus restoring Peter. Follow the Scripture:
    “but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33)

    “Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!’ And all the disciples said the same.” (Matthew 26:34-35)

    “Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know the man. And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:74-75)

    “He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” (John 21:17)

    And now Psalm 119:176. “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.”

    See the connection? Peter would never forget that he had denied Jesus — three times. He would never forget that Jesus had taught that those who deny Him would be denied by the Father. Peter probably assumed he had failed Jesus forever. He was likely wandering like a lost sheep. But then we see Jesus’ restoration of Peter. Jesus sought and found the lost sheep that was wandering… and then called him to shepherd and feed the rest of the lost sheep. Extra credit: can’t miss the connection between Ps. 119:176 and Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep as well! (Luke 15:3-7)

  4. Avis DeniseGraves says:

    ❤️

  5. Lysha Yanga says:

    I have a love-hate relationship with Simon Peter as a character and only now realizing it’s because I identify so much with him. But even with all the fears and failures, Christ loved him with an extraordinary love and did not let him go! Just as He did for us. I feel so blessed.

  6. Ashley White says:

    ❤️

  7. Angela Sutherland says:

    The fact that Peter’s failure didn’t disqualify from Christ’s call over his life is exactly what I needed to read today! I was struggling with feeling “less than” and “not enough” and “too much” in huge waves last night…no real reason other than I’m a bit tired and had a rough July with migraines, and it can set me on a negative mindset path. I needed today’s reminder of how Christ has called me and He equips me! I’m so thankful for His Word!

  8. AZ Walker says:

    Amen Lindsey. Joyce Meyer often preaches about it not being about our feelings but our choices and being grateful for God’s promises. I am anxious about my job and finances as the co I have worked for the past 22 yrs isn’t doing well and we have been experiencing furloughs and layoffs with more coming. Praying for all and Cyndi and Lara and school’s re-opening. My daughter starts her senior year of High School soon in person. When I feel overwhelmed I say a verse over and over. Lately this one is helping (I also do hand motions sometimes like I taught in Sunday Schooll!!!). Be strong and courageous and do not be afraid for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go!

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