Responding to Failure in Relationships

“When Jesus told the disciples they would soon abandon Him, He was not attacking them or challenging their loyalty. He knew them. He saw the limits of their faith. In compassion, He loved them even in their weaknesses. -(Journey Magazine article October 26, 2014)

Even Jesus, with a perfect record of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control…with a life chock-full of miracles and example of faithfulness and loyalty, even He did not receive 100% loyalty or faithfulness in return by those closest to Him. Was it because He was not worthy of their loyalty or faithfulness? Not at all. No one was, is or will ever be more worthy. But this was not about whether He’d proven Himself worthy. It was about the imperfect wavering hearts of even the most faithful of mankind. Even when we have the best intentions as people, there are always fleshly limits we are facing in need of God’s transforming work.

Jesus knew his beloved disciples and He saw their limitations. And His love did not waver.

Reading this devotion, I think about the standards, the impossible standards, I tend to hold for my husband and even others very close to me. Today, while reading this, I saw my husband and my loved ones through the heart of Peter. Now, before you think Ha! She thinks she is Jesus in this story… believe me – I saw just how short I fall of the description Christ-like when comparing my usual response and perspective to that of Jesus here. Zealous and passionate, Peter fiercely rebutted Christ’s prediction that he would deny Him. Like Peter, one of the virtues I love most about my husband in particular is that he has a very strong sense of loyalty. He would never think himself capable of anything else in his relationships – our marriage in particular. He has stood up in awkward situations time and again chosen strategic personal guidelines guard himself and protect our marriage. But the truth is, like Peter, we are all capable of failure. While Bryan has never detrimentally failed me, I realized that anything less than perfection from him tends to really disappoint me. It seems, at least for me, those closest to us in life will always be those we depend on most, but it will also sting the most when they let you down – even in the tiniest of ways.

In this case I saw how very much I could learn from Jesus in the responder role when in this situation. My A-ha! moment was studying His response after Peter denied Him…and also the outcome of the events. Peter was in this case devastated when he realized he’d failed Jesus. Because he already recognized his failure, Jesus, after the resurrection, chose to approach Peter – not with I told you so’s or How could you!?’s but with a humble and loving presence. I noticed two things here:

  1. Jesus knew his accusations were not needed to fix the situation…or to even the score of the offended. Isn’t it amazing how, when we can see through the eyes of Christ in this passage, we see the frivolousness of our tendencies? When we are denied in a sense or disappointed, what if instead of focussing on making someone understand  just how much we’re hurt or disappointed …we instead recognize that the root of the issue is something entirely different? What if we seek Christ to show us what is really needed rather than honing in on making sure our offended heart is understood or justified? When someone disappoints us, the way we feel is only a symptom, and we need to pray that, instead of our feelings blinding us to only our perspective, that God opens our hearts and eyes to His – the Great Physician’s – perspective so that we can discern how to be obedient let God can treat the root of the problem in the hearts involved rather than us slapping some salve on the symptoms that affect us individually.
  2. When we do our part, we are a more effective vessel for God’s purposes remaining out of the way for God to do His part. We can only do our part. Our job is not God’s job. God’s job is not our job. When we are obedient and stick to our part, God can do His part and those moments and change everything. That dark moment of failure changed Peter.

Peter knew he’d failed. No hurt-filled or harsh words from Jesus were needed. They might have felt good to vent, but they weren’t necessary or productive. In fact, in Peter’s story, accusations or harsh words might have drowned out that dark quiet silence that followed his failure that were so key to transforming Peter deep within his heart. It is through this sting of failure that Peter began to change within from the man whose original name Simon meant “like grass or a like a reed which is flimsy and wavers and is tossed by the wind” to Peter whose name means “Rock” to which Jesus told him “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matt 16:18)

I think again about the sometimes impossible standards I hold for my family – my sweet husband in particular. Today I see a perfect picture of how Jesus – though being the standard of perfection – holds us to a standard of grace. He even told the disciples about their weaknesses and loved them with compassion through their weak points which proved key to changing them from the inside out. I often want my husband in particular to be to me what only Jesus could ever be – unfailing and perfect. Ever been there before? And when he falls short, I either blame myself or blame him viewing it from my limited perspective. This passage is key in refocusing to a better perspective. I am not Jesus. I am imperfect. And I am beyond blessed to have a husband with the godly character, loyalty, love and devotion that he has. But he.is.not.Jesus. And he.is.not.perfect. And when I expect that, he will miss the mark every time. But like Jesus knew his disciples, I need to know my husband and loved ones and pray that God would help me discern my their current limits that I may also receive and heed godly instruction on how to best love them compassionately even in their weaknesses…that they too, like Peter, might develop strength in areas they were once weak in through the love grace and power of Christ. When we are obedient and do our part, instead of attacking or challenging our loved one’s loyalty, we have a powerful opportunity to be a vessel for Christ’s truth, love and grace while trusting God to do His part in His way in His time. And we’d be blessed to have our loved ones hold us to the same standard of grace in return…because – really – we are all like Peter. And we are all capable to let Christ chisel His character into our hearts like never before when we seek Him through our failures.

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