Peter is one of my favorite examples of zealous tenacity when it comes to his love and devotion to his Master, our Savior Jesus Christ. As chief apostle, Peter was prophesied to be the rock the Church would be built upon. This prophecy would come to pass but not before something devastating happened: Peter denied Christ.
Recently, I have watched many of my friends and acquaintances choose to alienate themselves from the church and its doctrine. This has been an emotional and trying time for me and for them as well. Crises of faith are real and harrowing: they affect not only the person experiencing the crisis, but their friends and loved ones as well. Whether you are watching someone experience a trial of faith, or it is you who is trying to fight doubt, I pray the faith crisis Peter had can help shed some light on the situation.
As Jesus and His disciples sat down to the passover feast, I could imagine things were fairly tense. One of them had just conspired against Jesus, and Christ was fully aware of it. He chose to make His sentiment known, “One of you shall betray me” (Matt. 26:21). They must have been shocked. How could any of the men gathered in that room, who had been witnesses to miracles and burning truths, ever betray their Master? One by one, they asked, “Lord, is it I?” (Matt. 26:22). That has been the burning question in my mind: Lord, is it I? I have seen some of the most inspirational people I’ve met deny the faith of their childhood. They turn away from the very Savior who they had once worshiped and knew. If those amazing, bright, incredible individuals can fall from the faith, am I next? Am I immune to the world that attempts to strip away my testimony? Or am I, like them, apt to stray from the truths I treasure?
Lord, is it I?
The truth is, I am absolutely vulnerable. The disciples recognized that they too could be capable of betraying their God. They humbly asked that self-searching question, praying for a confirmation that they would be true to Him. They honestly didn’t know! Almost all of the people I know that have chosen to leave the church have mentioned that they would have never expected they would leave it. As I sit now, I can’t imagine a life without the gospel, but how can I be sure I won’t someday decide to leave, too?
Peter seemed to know perfectly where he stood. He reassured the Lord: “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.” With His next statement, the Savior teaches all of us to be wary of speaking in absolutes. “Verily I say unto thee, that this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” Peter was confused. He was ready to go to prison, to death, with his Master. There was no way he could deny Him ever, let alone three times! The other disciples may have felt the same. But then comes that fateful moment, as it does to all of us, when night falls and the Lord is taken from our view.
We are left seemingly alone, lost in the philosophies of men, bombarded with opinions and information we cannot account for. It seems like the Lord is far away as we strive to navigate our questions and doubts, and suddenly a pointing finger confronts us and we are faced with a choice: do we defend or deny? As Peter sat outside the High Priest’s palace during Christ’s interrogation, I’m sure he wanted nothing more than to get closer to his Lord and defend Him in the face of His accusers. When people began to question Peter, instead of risking being taken away by a mob or perhaps revealing something that could be used against Jesus, Peter denied knowing the Lord, perhaps in an attempt to stay as close to Him as he could. When he realized what he had done, he wept bitterly. Peter’s initial intention was to stay close to Jesus and to draw even closer to Him; in fact, he wanted to be right at his side. But he listened to the thoughts of men and followed the current of the world in order to not fall away. He tried to draw closer his way and not the Lord’s way. Many of my friends felt that the Lord’s way of finding truth wasn’t working for them, so they turned to other sources in an attempt to draw closer and answer their questions. But their plan backfired: their faith was shaken, and their testimonies became useless to them. They denied their Lord without meaning to.
But then, a beautiful thing happened; morning came and the cock crew. When the cock crew, the sound reminded Peter of the warning and prophecy of Jesus had given him and he was able to recognize his mistake. While, of course, Peter was heartbroken at having denied his Savior that had just suffered for his sin, his heartbreak would eventually turn into an unshakable determination to stand as a Witness of Jesus Christ till the end of his days.
Let us all be aware that the Lord has warned us that we will deny Him and we do; every time we disobey and every time we are swayed by the adversary’s lies, we deny our Savior. But let’s always be listening for the crow, let’s always be anticipating the dawn to our night. It’s hard trying to navigate the night of doubt and it’s just as hard to watch a loved one try to do it by themselves, but the dawn does come. I await that moment when my friends hear the cock crow and feel that godly sorrow that will bring them back into the light they always loved. I pray their journey through their personal nights will lead them to a more brilliant dawn than they expected. I want my friends to know that I love them and because I love them I will continue to share His love with them, no matter what they decide. I will not lose my hope for them because I know the Lord never will.