My Heart Fears Only Your Word

Open Your Bible

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

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.

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44 thoughts on "My Heart Fears Only Your Word"

  1. Justina Robinson says:

    The only thing to fear is the word of Christ!

  2. 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.

  3. Dayna R says:

    Thanks Lisa May! I needed this today. ❤️

  4. 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)

  5. Avis DeniseGraves says:


  6. 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.

  7. Ashley White says:


  8. 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!

  9. 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!

  10. Chris Swan says:

    There are so many worthwhile ministries looking for dedicated loving Christians no matter what our age. Ask God to lead you to the one that He knows you can use your talents and His love. Even during this crazy time God needs all of us to serve Him by serving others.

  11. Caroline Bridges says:

    That last verse(Hebrews 13:8) is the one that I needed the most. Our world is very uncertain right now. I believe that God planned this entire COVID season and that he is working on a miracle.

  12. Debi Marrs says:

    I think it is so interesting to see all the times God’s perfect planning wows is!! He knew when He called Peter in the beginning that He would be meeting him in the shore here in the end. But Jesus worked it out so that Peter would get the connection clearly, this idea of not being disqualified due to failure. God’s call is irrevocable and sure!!

  13. Pam Williams says:

    Yes Sue that also jumped out to me!

  14. Dorothy says:

    When I read the first paragraph Russ wrote I thought of my father. My father was very knowledgeable in the Bible (like many of you my SRT sisters), but he would always say you can never know the whole meaning of what God is trying to say in the Bible. He would say it is always good to read others views of what the Lord’s Words mean to them, you may not agree, but keep an open mind and you might learn something. So that is why I am always willing and wanting to read the devotions and posts. I gain new insights much of the time. Thank you my SRT sisters for sharing what you know and feel and read.
    Lord, I thank you that each of us is different and has a different way of seeing things. I thank you for allowing us to share our thoughts and knowledge. Amen.

  15. Lara says:

    Hi everyone! I have been a daily reader of SRT for many years now and love reading all of your thoughtful, God-filled comments each day, but rarely comment myself; however, the upcoming season of my life has me feeling anxious and unsure about my future, so I am humbling requesting prayers. I am about to enter my third year of college and am quite overwhelmed by all of the changes that the pandemic has brought to my campus. While I trust that my school’s administration is doing everything possible to keep me and my fellow students safe and healthy, I still experience lingering fears over all the unknowns that this year has in store. It can be so hard to focus on the fact that God is in control of the situation and has a plan for this season, so I ask that you pray that I am able to center myself in God’s love and promise this year. I also live a few hours away from my campus and tend to be an anxious driver, so please pray that I feel calm and safe the entire trip. I am so grateful for the openness, love, and support that you ladies provide every day on SRT and hope that this comment is the start of me becoming a more active member of this community!

    1. Lisa Emily says:

      Hey Lara!! May God bless you and calm your nerves. He will give you strength even if you feel uncertain or anxious. Remind yourself of ways He came through in the past and reject the lies of Satan telling you He can’t or it won’t or your best is behind you. God is able and willing and will always be by our side! Amen! I’m hoping he gives you laser focus in your third year and helps you make a domination plan to ace your exams and live out your calling in the world. Love and blessings from your sister in Christ, Lisa

  16. Diana Fleenor says:

    This story of Peter resonates with me in a very specific way. Seven years ago I had the worst season of broken health that I had yet experienced, and some previous seasons were pretty bad. My body lost the ability to tolerate any food, most of my clothing, any electrical devices, and even the presence of people any closer than several feet. I reacted to touching the Bible as well.

    My daughter helped me by taping Scriptures on the wall in the hall so I could read them when I walked (briefly). I was determined, like Peter, to not walk afraid of the suffering. But, like Peter, the circumstances and fear took over and I failed and after about four months of starving with very little nutrition, I began to doubt my place in the body of Christ. Like CS Lewis wrote, my faith fell like a house of cards. As confusion took over, holes were exposed in my theology of suffering and of God’s amazing gospel of grace. In a moment of despair, I foolishly tried to take my own life.

    But God…When I woke in the hospital, I was astonished to still be in this world. Though it took a little over a week, the Lord opened my eyes through all this brokenness that his mercies are greater than my failures. His grace abounds and abounds. It was in a moment of revelation of his great mercy and compassion for my shattered soul that I was overcome by the greatest flood of joy that I’ve ever experienced. I knew in that moment I was forgiven and cleansed of not only my suicide attempt, but all my sin!

    Though my illness continues and pain, fatigue and other disabling symptoms are a daily battle, his joy is anchored in my soul. Sure some days it’s hard to find and feel, and I’m tempted with doubting thoughts. However at those times, in his grace, the Lord reminds me of the promise that no one can snatch me from his hand! I am his and he is mine.

    I’m grateful for how he has displayed this same kind of mercy in many of your lives, sisters of SRT. May he bless each one of you today with the ability to answer his question, “Do you love me?” with the same repeating “yes” that Peter gave.

  17. Sherry says:

    Beth S Thank you for sharing this. I’m so thankful Jesus meets me where I am.

  18. Mari V says:

    God’s love for us does not change!! I love this reassurance! He is faithful. He remains faithful. Even when I’m not.

  19. Angie says:

    Churchmouse, last year when my mother-in-law died, I got to write the letter from the children that was shared in hard copy at the viewing and aloud at the funeral. It is amazing to me, (I know you understand this,) how powerfully the Holy Spirit guided to just the right words to offer a humble remembrance of a life lived for Him. It was a beautiful, God honoring service. I’m sorry for you and your husband’s loss of his mom (heaven’s gain), but thankful for the beautiful, God honoring time you all had. I know from experience the healing and peace in that.

  20. Beth S says:

    So, there is even more beauty in this passage when you know the various Greek words used for love. A pastor explained it in a sermon that the first 2 times Jesus asks Peter he says, “Do you agape me?” (Which means unconditional, sacrificial love). And both times Peter responds, “Yes, of course I phileo you.” (Which means brotherly, affectionate love). So, then the third time, Jesus meets him where he is at and asks him, “Peter, do you phileo me?” And Peter is able to say, “Lord, you know I do.” Even when we just can’t truly agape love God and others, no matter how hard we try, God’s love for us is always agape. But he also understands where we are and comes to us and meets us there. How reassuring is that?! Just thought I’d share with you all in the hope of encouraging your hearts this morning. It certainly makes a difference for me :)

    1. Gail F says:

      Thank you so much for sharing this. I really needed to hear this today. I am struggling with agape love at the moment. I am thankful that Jesus knows and will come and meet me here. ❤️

    2. Ashley P. says:

      That’s really encouraging! Thank you for sharing that.

  21. Lindsay C. says:

    For some reason, I expected this Psalm to end in a tidy bow, with the psalmist firmly rooted in the Word with no worries. While he does talk about rejoicing, loving, praising, hoping, singing and having peace, he also cries out for understanding, pleas for a rescue, asks for help, longs for salvation, and wanders like a lost sheep. Such as it has been throughout the entire Psalm.

    And then it hit me. Of course! Our emotions ebb and flow with highs and lows, yet His Word remains constant. He is the steady rock never changing. I cannot rely on my feelings, but I can stand on the Truth. In suffering, in joy, in lack, and in abundance, He is my strength and salvation.

    1. La AnnLow says:

      Amen- Just as it should be. God is our source and our salvation and we MUST remember that. No one and nothing takes His place

  22. Cyndi M Smith says:

    Please pray for our school Trinity Christian Academy as we go back in these uncertain times. We are making plans and trying to wrap our heads around what our new normal looks like. Please pray for our kids, teachers and staff that we will remain well. I love these people and I hate to watch any of them so sick. We place our trust in God and watch what He will do.

  23. Jane K says:

    Abundant peace, Amen❤️

  24. Maura says:

    Peter’s story and the way Jesus restores him. How Awesome it is. He does know Peter loves him. Jesus wants Peter to know he is forgiven and still by grace able to do what God created him to do, Feed my sheep. Our sin separates us from God, but Jesus the Lamb of God restores us through his sacrifice on the cross. Like Peter we have all denied in one way or another who Jesus is. But the Truth sets us free. Praying for Lebanon and you Mom to Many. Praying for your family Churchmouse. i am sorry for your loss, but God is holding you all and all those your family has faithfully shared Jesus with. What a legacy and what joy your mother in law has given in her life. Hugs Sisters our God is able, faithful, and mighty in love.

  25. Michelle says:

    Phew, this reading made me cry. Thank you. It’s a struggle and we’re together with God

  26. Taylor says:

    These passages remind me of the song “Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher. Every hour I need you, my one defense, my righteous; oh God, how I need you.” When we recognize our constant need for the Lord and seek Him, we find Him and we find peace, salvation, hope, strength, the list goes on an on. I was so thankful for the explanation of the John 21 passage, and boy did my soul need to hear it. NOTHING disqualifies us from God’s love. While I go through personal seasons of struggle and failure, the Lord has never left my side. Two days ago, my soul was prompting me to listen to “Faithful to the End” by Bethel. I just needed that personal reminder that He truly is faithful, even when I am faithless. Thank you, God, that your Word is truly for every season and we can always glean something new for even though we change; You do not <3

  27. Nancy Singleton says:

    I’m thankful you were able to honor your mother in law & the Lord in this way, Churchmouse. Lifting prayers of comfort for you & all the family in the days of missing her that will come.

  28. Maddy Pearson says:

    Thank you, God, for your word! Thank you for communicating your love for me through it. Thank you for showing me the path of life by it. Help me to see more of you and to love you more deeply through engaging with your word. Help me desire to spend time with you in your word more and more, above other things.

    1. Chelsea V says:

      Yes ❤️❤️❤️

    2. Jennifer Martin says:


  29. Sue says:

    “Peter’s failure did not disqualify him from Jesus’s love, or from Jesus’s call on his life.”

    What a great reminder for us all.

    1. Mari V says:

      I loved that too.

  30. Mom to many says:

    I am that person who feels they have lost the love of God and just longs to sit at Jesus feet. Midlife and menopause have brought with it anxiety, fear, depression and restlessness-wondering if the best days are behind me and wondering what the future holds.

    Now that my children are grown I long for a new call from Jesus. Purpose for my days. While I wait I will continue loving and serving those around me praying to be filled with joy from the Spirit.

    Please pray for the devastation in Lebanon. We have many ministry partners there and it is an awful situation.

  31. Churchmouse says:

    The funeral last evening for my mother in law was like no other. A limit on the number of mourners at any one time. Hand sanitizer stations. Seating spaced at six feet apart. Everyone wearing face coverings. No hugging. No handshakes. It was a surreal scene.
    BUT GOD.
    A life focused on food, family and faith was fondly remembered. My brother in law spoke from familiar Scriptures on having a personal relationship with Jesus and the sure promises of God. Bibles and pamphlets on salvation were freely available for those with questions, those seeking what so many already had. “Amazing Grace” was sung by one whose voice soared with sincerity and assurance. Like the psalmist of Psalm 119 we rejoiced “over your promise like one who finds vast treasure.” The comfort came from the promises. Everyone left a little richer for having been reminded of them. “Abundant peace belongs to those who love your instruction.” Yes, psalmist, yes.

    1. Lynn S says:


    2. Mari V says:


    3. Candi Salenieks says:


    4. Claire B says:

      Oh, Churchmouse, my condolences on the loss to your family. Prayers for peace.

  32. Blessed Beth says:

    I just wrote to some friends about patience, how love is patient. God is so loving and patient. Me, I have patience with everyone except one person, myself. God made me realize that this AM and today I am going to start being patient with me. It will take a lot of work, but as is anything good, it will be worth it.

  33. Kristen says:

    I’m just realizing that I’m not done and doomed when I sin. I can repent, and God is faithful and just to forgive! What an amazing gift and privilege! Thank You, God that Your mercies are new every morning. Great is Your Faithfulness. Thank You, Jesus for making a way for us/ me to approach a Holy God. Thank You for showing me that I don’t have to beat myself up for my sin. Thank You for forgiveness and loving us, and thank You that You give the Holy Spirit to help, convict, and quicken Scripture to us so that we don’t have to be trapped in sin. You don’t abandon or forsake us. Thank You, God that You can be found when we seek You! May these truths become real to us that struggle and beat ourselves up and let the Truth set us free! Amen