Last week, my friend Rich shared with me the Collins Dictionary Word of the Year for 2022.

It is, appropriately, permacrisis, which means “an extended period of instability and insecurity, especially one resulting from a series of catastrophic events.” 

Alex Beecroft of Collins Learning went on to say that “we are in an ongoing state of uncertainty and worry,” after “living through upheaval caused by … the pandemic, severe weather, the war in Ukraine, political instability, the energy squeeze, and the cost-of-living crisis.” 

What is a permacrisis?

Living in a permacrisis takes a toll on us; when we feel knocked down by one crisis after another, it becomes harder to get back up again. So it’s not surprising to me that “quiet quitting” also made the top 10 list of new words and phrases that reflect our times and society.

Quiet quitting is a philosophy of doing no more than the bare minimum at work. You don’t leave your job, but you “quit” going above and beyond.  While quiet quitting has some benefits when it comes to handling burnout at work, I think it can seep into other areas of our lives where it’s not beneficial—like our faith and relationships.

I have seen the effects of both of the permacrisis and quiet quitting on my heart and faith. Instead of seeing possibilities, I see potential problems; I ruminate on what went wrong in the past. I’ll do what I feel obliged to do as a Christian, but I quit going  “above and beyond” in my faith, love, and vision.

Thankfully the Scriptures as always give us a way to navigate perilous times.    

Don’t you know that this good man, though you trip him up seven times, will each time rise again? But one calamity is enough to lay you low.

Proverbs 24:16 TLB

Though this translation says “good man,” other versions simply say “the righteous” or “the godly.” God is the one who can help us through any crisis and calamity that may knock us down, even when they come back-to-back like a permacrisis. He is the one who helps us get up and try again. 

But without God, it only takes one difficult moment to take us down. 

Those moments in my life when I have been knocked down are etched vividly into my memory. I have found that it is not the external circumstances that determine whether I get up and try again, but the condition of my faith and relationship with God.

In those low moments when I have internalized failure and felt defeated; when I have become exhausted from my own sin, regret, and choices; or when I have become plagued by bitterness, blame, and resentment that I have to ask myself these crucial questions: will I turn to God and be willing to try again? Or is this it? Will I remain stuck in this condition, unable to find the strength to rise? 

I have been in these moments before and I am in one now. 

In his book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World, Adam Grant talks about being in a group of “elite failures.” 

“Ultimately, what we regret is not failure, but the failure to act. Knowing that is what propels people to become original.

Adam Grant

Throughout history, the great originals have been the ones who failed the most, because they were the ones who tried the most. 

So take it from this group of elite failures. If at first, you don’t succeed, you’ll know you’re aiming high enough.”

Peter, also called Simon, is one of the biblical men who I would put in this group of elite failures. Peter had his share of failures, but God used him in great ways. He is one of my personal heroes because he learned from Jesus how to see past his failures and find his potential.     

Let’s look at a key moment in Peter’s life and learn to find the willingness to try again. 

From seeing problems to seeing potential

Our story starts with Jesus preaching the Word of God to great crowds, and noticing a man who was feeling pretty discouraged:

One day as he was preaching on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the Word of God. He noticed two empty boats standing at the water’s edge while the fishermen washed their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push out a little into the water, so that he could sit in the boat and speak to the crowds from there. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper and let down your nets and you will catch a lot of fish!” 

“Sir,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, we’ll try again.”

Luke 5:1-5 NLT

It was no mistake for Jesus to pick Simon Peter’s boat to use to speak to the crowd. He knew Simon had experienced some failure, but he also knew he could help him see his potential. 

Simon listened to Jesus’ message with exhausted ears. Jesus’ lesson that day did not make it to the biblical text because what made the biggest impact on Simon is what Jesus did, not what he said. 

Simon had an internal tiredness that comes from putting everything you have into something and still coming up with nothing. He had worked all night, but still his nets were empty. When Jesus told Simon to try one more time to catch fish, he knew what was at stake was more than fishing. It was Simon’s heart and faith he was really after. 

What are your “empty nets”? What are the things you have poured your life-blood into that have come back with a different result than you had hoped and dreamed? It could be our marriage or family; our kids sometimes make choices we never wanted them to make. It could be the realization that our career has defined us, but now we feel like success has passed us by. Or it could be that special someone we had hoped would be “the one” is now dating someone else.

These moments bring up painful feelings of inadequacy and disappointment, and the way I deal with these negative emotions can shape my relationship with God into the future. When I avoid or am unwilling to deal with the pain that comes with these times, I remain stuck in that moment and unable to grow and reach the potential God has for me. 

When I let these painful feelings push me to God, I find myself growing to places I never could have gone on my own. I think that’s one reason God lets us come to these difficult and frustrating moments; he doesn’t want us to feel pain, but he does want us to understand that we are not meant to live our lives independently from him. 

From the end of the earth I call to You, when my heart is overwhelmed and weak; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I [a rock that is too high to reach without Your help].

Psalm 61:2 AMP

As the psalmist tells us, God leads us to a place that is too high for us to reach alone. We must have God to lift us there. No amount of effort or climbing on our own will achieve it. For me to be willing to try again, I must come to the realization that the potential God is leading me to is unreachable without me growing in my trust and reliance on God. 

It is not that Jesus had a different fishing strategy or methodology to fill Simon’s empty nets; it was simply Jesus’ presence in the boat and Simon’s willingness to say these words that made the difference: “But if you say so, we’ll try again.”

Peter had the potential (and later, the faith) to change the world, as described in Acts 2 and 10. But at this time, he didn’t need that level of faith. He just needed the faith and willingness to try one more time. 

Jesus saw the potential in Peter, and that was all he needed. He knew how to take that potential and turn it into faith. 

We may not have the faith right now to change the world, but Jesus sees that potential in us. We just need the faith and willingness Peter had to tell God, “If you say so, I’ll try again.” 

Pause and reflect

  • What are your “empty nets”? The things you’ve poured your life into that haven’t turned out the way you hoped?
  • What is God wanting you to try just one more time? Some ideas might be having the faith to “try again” with engaging your kids, forgiving your spouse, repenting of your sin, loving a friend, or reaching out to a neighbor just one more time. 

From ruminating to reflecting

And this time their nets were so full that they began to tear!  A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, sir, please leave us—I’m too much of a sinner for you to have around.”

Luke 5:6-8 TLB

When Simon Peter realized what he had just witnessed and the power Jesus had, he was stunned, and all of his weaknesses and sins struck him. He was so overwhelmed by it, that he asked Jesus to leave him alone. 

I can have the same feelings Peter had when I start seeing my failures, sins, and weaknesses. Rather than reflecting on these weaknesses and sins so that I can learn and grow closer to God, I often get stuck ruminating about what I have done and how I view myself. 

  • Ruminating is recycling old thoughts of what went wrong, lamenting past choices, and overanalyzing disappointments. It is self-focused, steals my faith, and leaves me filled with regret. You could say that the biblical term for it is “worldly sorrow” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV). 
  • Reflecting, on the other hand, is looking for new insights from God that can help me change and get better. This type of exploration leads to being outward-focused, growing, and having faith. It is a godly kind of sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:11 NIV); reflecting makes me glad to see weaknesses because I want to identify anything that’s getting in the way of my relationship with God.

Ruminating on my failures and disappointments leads me to push away people and God, much like Simon Peter did in this passage. 

I remember a conversation I once had as a young Christian with someone much wiser than me. He told me that since God is light (1 John 1:5-7), the closer I am to God the more sin and weakness I will see in myself. Seeing weaknesses isn’t a bad thing. Reflecting on our weaknesses and sins can actually help us see our need for God, creating a desire to draw closer to him out of gratitude for his mercy and kindness. 

Jesus helped Simon Peter work through his feelings about his sins by showing him he still had a great purpose for his life and that Peter would in fact do more to change lives than he could ever dream. 

Pause and reflect    

  • Do you spend more time ruminating or reflecting?
  • What does God want you to explore in your heart that can help you find the purpose he has for you?

From feeling pressured to finding purpose

When Peter asked Jesus not to be around him, Jesus knew Peter had to deal with his fear. 

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, sir, please leave us—I’m too much of a sinner for you to have around.” For he was awestruck by the size of their catch, as were the others with him, [10] and his partners too—James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Jesus replied, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for the souls of men!” [11] And as soon as they landed, they left everything and went with him.

Luke 5:9-11 TLB

Fear makes me feel pressured. From a young age, I have been a very performance-oriented person. I have believed that I need to perform at a certain level in order to be accepted, loved, or valued. This leads to a terrible dance between pride and insecurity: pride when I think I am doing a good job that everyone should appreciate, and insecurity that I will not be able to perform up to a certain standard and am therefore unworthy. 

Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

Psalm 51:16 MSG

When he wrote this Psalm, David understood a basic quality of God’s: he doesn’t want a performance out of us, but a heart ready for love. As the Son of God, Jesus wanted to pass this viewpoint onto Peter, telling him what we need to hear today – that God still has a purpose for us to love others, no matter how well we feel we have performed.

No matter how many sins we have committed, no matter how many failures we have experienced, God still has a purpose for us and can still use us to change people’s lives. In fact, the pain of failure and difficulty can become the source of strength to live the purpose God has for us. This was the case for Peter. He would go on to become one of Jesus’ closest friends, only to turn his back on him at the cross. 

Jesus knew that Peter’s betrayal would lead to a greater purpose, as he says in this passage:

But I have prayed for you. I have prayed that your faith will hold firm and that you will recover from your failure and become a source of strength for your brothers here.

Luke 22:32 Voice

There have been many times in my life when I have thought that God was done with me—I felt washed up and thought I had sinned out, kaput! These feelings are not an issue of age; I have had them in my 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s.

Seeing Jesus help Simon Peter navigate all of his heart issues gives me faith that God is not finished with me or you yet either. He can use all of us, no matter what condition our faith is in, to do things we have never dreamed of if we are just willing to try again!   

Pause and reflect

  • How do you see the performance-oriented mindset in your life? How does it affect your relationship with God?
  • How might God use your pain and difficulty to guide you to your purpose?
  • What decisions can you make to try again?

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Scott Colvin

Scott Colvin works in ministry and community service in the San Francisco Bay Area. Scott ran cross country for the University of North Carolina. Some say he's still running to this day.

Scott Colvin

Scott Colvin works in ministry and community service in the San Francisco Bay Area. Scott ran cross country for the University of North Carolina. Some say he's still running to this day.