The Grief of Growth

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He 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?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. — John 21:15-17

There are two troubling parts of this text.

The first is the word "these" and what Jesus refers to in the question to Peter, "Do you love me more than these?" It could be a reference to the fish or his work of fishing. Or it could be his brothers sitting around the fire with them. Yet still, it could be both. Regardless, Jesus is merely challenging his self-declared all-in commitment to him above everything else, including his career and friendships.

The second troubling part is far more personal. It's the "grief" caused by the three-fold interrogation of Jesus. The third ask of the same question in front of his peers incited grief because of the shame and memory of his three-fold denial.

But while this is troubling, it was necessary. Jesus knows it. But so does every spiritual leader. In spiritual leadership, we must sometimes open old wounds and dig into painful issues to promote spiritual healing. This process is probing, public, and painful. Occasionally, we seek it. Other times, we are confronted by it.

But this is the crucible of spiritual leadership and spiritual growth — the willingness to confront someone and be confronted by someone else. As believing men, we have to stop shying away from leadership and growth. I think this is one of the big reasons men avoid spiritual community with other men. We don't want to submit to the pains of growth because we are scared of the grief and shame. And if you are wondering why you don't experience spiritual growth, this could be one of the big reasons why. You never yourself around someone who will tell you what you need to hear the way you need to hear it.

So do that today. Go to another believer who knows you and ask them to tell you the painful truth about you. Then listen, don't explain, blame, or defend. Just listen. And then, when they are done, and the wound is open, and you feel grieved and maybe some shame, ask them this: "How do you think I can grow in commitment to Jesus in that area?"

Then, heed and act on any biblical and godly advice immediately. This is the crucible of spiritual change. And believing men invite it and welcome it.


Reflect on a time when you experienced discomfort or grief due to a spiritual challenge or confrontation. How did this experience ultimately contribute to your growth in faith, and how can you apply this lesson to become more committed to Christ in a specific area of your life?

Consider the relationships in your spiritual community. Is there someone you trust to speak difficult truths into your life? How might you open a conversation with them to help you examine areas where you need growth, and how can you ensure you respond with openness and a willingness to change?

DO THIS: Ask a brother this question: "How do you think I can grow in commitment to Jesus in that area?"

PRAY THIS: Father, grant me the courage to face the challenging truths about myself and the humility to grow from them so I may better love and serve You as You deserve. Teach me to embrace the discomfort that leads to spiritual maturity and to faithfully feed and tend to Your flock in all I do. Amen.

PLAY THIS: Lord, I Need You.

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Read through the Bible daily with Vince Miller.

4 thoughts on “The Grief of Growth

  1. Eddie says:

    8-9 years ago now, I recommitted my life to Jesus. I read through the Bible for the first time, cover to cover, that first year, was baptized as a believer, and started tithing and serving in the church I have been a member of for about 7-8 years now. I also got involved in other local churches through Vacation Bible School, AWANA, and other Wednesday night kids programs that are similar to AWANA. My oldest two children have also experienced believers baptism in this span of time as well, through a program at our church. They attend a different church than me, but they are still attending a church, so I am not concerned that we attend different churches, just that they are still actively attending a church, and willing to learn about God, Jesus, and how to emulate Jesus. Before I was baptized, I had to have help overcoming my repetitive sin of pornography addiction. I tried to do things on my own, mostly behind closed doors, but realized that without help, I would keep coming back to bad habits and sin, so I invited my wife, part of my flesh, to setup the antivirus on the computer and she is STILL the only person that knows the password so that I CAN’T even think about visiting those websites anymore. Thanks to confiding in my wife and trusting her to look out for my well being, I am now a healthy, growing, more loving and devoted follower of Jesus.

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