[Jesus] said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” (John 21:17 ESV)
We all know what it means to grieve God. When we seek to accomplish our will rather than His will, we grieve God. When we seek to expand our kingdom rather than His kingdom, we grieve God. When we store up for ourselves treasures on earth rather than in heaven, we grieve God. But did you know that the God we grieve also grieves us?
On the night Jesus was betrayed, He was also denied. All the disciples, who had promised never to disown Him even if it meant death (Matthew 26:35), fled the Garden of Gethsemane, leaving their Lord alone with the crowd that had come to arrest Him. Just a few hours later, Peter denied ever knowing Jesus—not once, but three times, just as Jesus had said he would do.
However, after His resurrection, Jesus was intent on making sure that all the disciples, especially Peter, knew that they had been forgiven and restored to sweet fellowship with Christ. Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him—not once, but three times—which made it clear to Peter and the other disciples that He had completely forgiven Peter. Each time Peter said, “Lord, you know that I love you,” it was is if Peter was wiping away the guilty stain of one of his three “I don’t know the man!” denials. It was a glorious demonstration of God’s amazing grace, and yet Peter was also grieved in that moment, and for good reason: our Lord was doing “heart work” in the life of Peter. The grief God delivers to His people is designed to lay bare the deepest, inmost secrets of the heart that cannot be touched in any other way.
Jesus intentionally grieved Peter to grow him, and He does the same thing for us too. You have heard, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). Well, the wounds that God inflicts on us in the form of grief are not only faithful, they are faith-building. To be sure, they hurt, and they expose deep-seated fears and failures in our lives. But the Great Physician has ordained that some soul surgery can only be accomplished by grief. And so our God leads us into the valley of grief when He knows that grief is the very best way to develop our faith.
So . . . where in your life has God been grieving you lately? Where has grief been gnawing at your heart? I say this to encourage you: those who know not the grief of God know not the God of grief. Far too many in the church today have been sold a bill of “easy believism” goods. They hear endless messages about God’s grace, but they are never taught about God’s chastening, correcting, rebuking, and restoring. Yet this is the promise for all disciples of Christ, and Scripture tells us to endure it because “God is treating you as sons” (Hebrews 12:7). The grief God brings into our lives is a good grief, because it is delivered to grow us and to prepare us to live in His loving presence for all eternity.
Today, Jesus is asking all of us, “Do you love me?” Our faithful, trusting response to the God who grieves us is one way that we can sincerely reply, “Lord, you know that I love you.”
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!