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 (44)

44 thoughts on "My Heart Fears Only Your Word"

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!!

  4. Pam Williams says:

    Yes Sue that also jumped out to me!

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. Sherry says:

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

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