Have you ever heard anyone say that the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will? As if life were a giant category 5 hurricane, and if you can just manage to stay in the eye your life will be calm with pleasant weather. That’s a dumb saying. Unless you mean eternally, like you’ll end up in His presence in heaven, and you are referring to the safety and security you have in that promise. But that is not what the implication usually is. It is a fool hardy belief that nothing bad can or should happen to you if you are where God wants you.
But then there is Peter. Following Jesus. Satan wanted to sift him like wheat. And God consented! Does not sound very safe to me.
Some may say that in his denial Peter stepped out of God’s will. Maybe. But couldn’t it also be true that is exactly where God wanted him? It is certainly possible that dealing with the aftermath of that decision is where God needed Peter. As Peter ran out of the courtyard, left the warmth of the fire, think of the things he was forced to confront in his isolation. Arrogance, pride, self-reliance – sounds like Peter has some root sin issues to confront.
Would Peter have been the man who was to lead the church, handling the keys of the kingdom, without this incident? My guess is no, or else why did God allow it?
Thing is, Jesus knew beforehand what was going to happen. He told Peter about it. Told Peter to watch and pray. Described the scene to Peter before the day arrived. What Jesus did not do was shield Peter from it. Whether your theology is God caused this event or that Peter chose this event, Jesus knew and He allowed Peter to experience the full consequences of his root sin. It was the only way, apparently, to break him.
I have the opposite tendency in my relationships. Quite often I will shield people from the consequences of their sinning against me. Won’t own up to my hurt. Will ‘forgive’ before there is resolution or an apology has even been offered. I take on blame that is not my due. Even now, well advanced in my journey toward strength, I still make this my comfort zone. Particularly with my wife.
There is such a tension in this. My job is to build her up. Letting her experience the consequences feels like tearing down. (Maybe the question to ask is – what are healthy, differentiated consequences? Good question.) But shielding her from being upset, allowing her to not share in the hurt of experience relational consequences – is that building her up or keeping her from experiencing what God needs her to in order for Him to change her? How will she overcome her anxiety reducing strategies if there is no anxiety?
Christ could have intervened and protected Peter from the pain of his denial. Rather than building up, that would have been puffing up. Something fake. Looks good on the outside, but is empty on the inside. Where would Peter have ended up then? Puffed up things pop.
What happened to Peter was not done vindictively or out of spite. It was not an effort to manipulate. Rather, Christ differentiated himself so Peter would feel the natural consequences of his sin against Jesus. It was for his good.
I need to be strong and let God do the same in my marriage. I am to love and protect my wife, but that doesn’t mean that I am to be her shield. Her shield, according to Ephesians, is to be her faith, that God may be trying to refine by fire.
This is maybe the hardest step I have had to take yet in my journey. Not even sure I know in what direction to take the step. But I am choosing to trust God and I love her enough to do it.
Just like Jesus.