Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. Luke 22:61-62
Only hours earlier Peter had said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (verse 33). When Peter said this he thought he was being honest. He genuinely thought he was prepared to face imprisonment and death. None of us know ourselves as well as we think we do. We often don’t know how we would respond when faced with severe temptation. Generally, we think we are much stronger than we actually are.
Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). We don’t realize how much our hearts are influenced by our pasts, by circumstances and by culture, and how little by the beliefs we hold in our heads. We really don’t know what denials, what lies, what evil lurks in our hearts. In our minds, we may feel able to face persecution but it’s only when we are facing temptation that we really know our hearts.
The next verse in Jeremiah 17 tells us, “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind…” Fortunately, God knows us. He not only knows our minds but also our hearts and nothing he finds there surprises him, though it may surprise us. He knows us so well that he knows exactly how we will react under pressure. However, like Peter, God’s objectives are always redemptive. When we succumb to temptation God restores us so we can strengthen others. “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (verse 32).