And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
Our failures and regrets leave a bitter taste. Peter had messed up. But why did he react so strongly to the realization of what he’d done? Maybe it was because deep down, he really loved Jesus so much. He wanted so much to devote everything to Him and claim Him as his Lord, not deny even knowing Him. His actions were inconsistent with what was truly in his heart, and that was a bitter pill to swallow. And that’s what happens every time we do something that doesn’t line up with who we truly are as followers of Christ.
Peter was grieved not because he’d been called out as a disciple of Jesus, not out of pride, but perhaps mostly out of shame that he was capable of such a thing and he had let himself so easily fall into something he never wanted to do. It was a moment he could never take back, a missed opportunity, a failed test, in a way. And those kinds of experiences can send us to the depths of discouragement and sorrow.
Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we are capable of that we might never be willing to admit to. But when we do mess up and we’re in that bitter place of having done the unthinkable, His grace finds us there. This wasn’t just a failure for Peter, but an opportunity to learn and grow from his mistake. It offered him lessons to help solidify his faith. It gave him an opportunity to understand the inherent weakness inside that he was no match for on his own. It was an experience that could create compassion and empathy in him for others who did things that they regretted.
Unfortunately, it’s pretty much inevitable that we will fail. We will not make the right choice every time. We will do things we regret. But that doesn’t make us a lost cause. Those experiences are opportunities to learn and grow. From those rock-bottom kind of moments, we can learn important lessons about who we are and how much we need to depend on God. We can learn what our priorities truly are and maybe even how important it is to us to love and follow Jesus. Those bitter experiences are painful in the moment. They may sting for a while, but we don’t have to let them hold us back from growing and moving forward.