How to Get Back on Track After You’ve Messed Up

Man with face in hands

Sometimes smart people do dumb things, wise people do foolish things, and even the godly do ungodly things. Regardless of how we mess up, we share one thing in common: we all make mistakes. The Bible says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Often we view this statement in regards to a non-believer in need of Christ’s salvation and forgiveness.

However, even a mature Christian can blow it at times.

When believers go through trials, temptations and difficulties, some lose hope and turn away from the faith, while others gather their bearings and allow Christ to help them grow stronger.

The important factor is how we recover when we fall.

There are some valuable lessons to be learned from Peter’s mistake. Take a look a Jesus’ words to him in Luke 22:31-32.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

And yet Peter’s reply to this statement is, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.”

But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” (Luke 22:33-34)

Peter’s story is personal. It’s real. It’s me and it’s you. It’s us.

And this is what makes it so personal. With the same mouth Peter uses to proclaim Jesus as the Christ and the long-awaited Messiah—Peter uses to deny Him.

We are guilty of the same thing. Maybe not in the same way as Peter, yet we all deny the Lord in our own way.

Jesus knew before his crucifixion that Peter was going to make a colossal mistake— not just once, but three times. He gave Peter a directive, “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” The Greek word here is epistrepho, meaning “to turn to.” It can mean “turn around, go back,” but is often used metaphorically to mean “to change one’s mind or course of action.”

In telling Peter “when” you have turned back, Jesus is saying there is recovery. There is healing. There is restoration.

After Peter’s denial and the death of Jesus, something died inside of him too. So Peter returns to his old ways. He goes back to fishing. To what he knows and trusts. His failures still loom over him. The denial of Jesus clings to him. He can’t shake the thought of what he did.

Can you blame him? Isn’t that how we behave when we have messed up?

But then. . .

A voice calls out to them from shore. “Friends, have you caught any fish? Throw your net on the other side and you will find some.”

The disciple John said, “It’s the Lord!”

That’s all Peter needed to hear. He jumped in the water and headed for the shore. Once he and the other disciples arrived, Jesus was there.

They all ate breakfast together and then Jesus turns to Peter and asks him, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”

Peter responds, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” (hurt, frustrated) “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Peter needed Jesus to restore him, to forgive him, to make him new again…, and again…, and again.

So do we.

Did you see it? Jesus tenderly reaches out to the one who made the biggest screwup of his life.

Jesus’ offer to Peter is the Same to Us.

When we mess up, we must TURN:

  • Turn to God through confession.

  • Turn away from sinful behavior.

  • Turn to God’s acceptance and forgiveness.

  • Turn it around by strengthening other believers.

If Peter was to grow and become the “rock” who Jesus had called him to be, Jesus had to re-commission him—to call him out again. When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, Peter’s response helped to strengthen him to return to the ministry he was called to.

I don’t know where you are at spiritually today. But there are a few things do I know: we all make mistakes and the devil would love to keep us feeling condemned by them.

That is not the way of Christ.

Just as with Peter, Jesus asks a question, “Do you love me?”

Then don’t wallow. Don’t stuff it. Don’t try to do things on your own. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Don’t return to your old life.

All you need to do is TURN.

Our past mistakes will not be used to strengthen others until we have experienced God’s healing and restoration for ourselves. Will you allow Him to do that for you?

Is there an experience from your past that God wants you to use to strengthen others? 

Or perhaps you need to apply the lessons that Jesus showed us through Peter’s mistake and TURN.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

This article was also published on SoCal Christian Voice.

10 thoughts on “How to Get Back on Track After You’ve Messed Up”

  1. Thank you for the reminder of how we need to TURN when we mess up! And, unfortunately, we, like Peter, fail again, and again, and again! I am so thankful for forgiveness and mercy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amen, Beckie! Our ladies at church completed the study on 1 Peter by Jen Wilkn, A Living Hope. This same man, Peter, who messed up, failed big time in his faith, and made huge mistakes, was called to encourage the church and believers. And in his letter, he addresses the Chrisitans exiled and looking for hope amidst their suffering and persecution. Which is what makes your thoughts here come to life, especially this: “Our past mistakes will not be used to strengthen others until we have experienced God’s healing and restoration for ourselves.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Karen, I’m so grateful for the daily grace our Father extends to those who turn to Him. I’m glad this post coincided with the study your church completed. We did a Jen Wilkins study some time ago. I cannot remember which one, but I remember enjoying it. Now I’ll need to go look for it 🙂
      Thanks for your sweet comment, my friend.


  3. Such an important reminder, to all of us. Some days I feel like Paul; as though I am the “Chief Sinner.” Am so grateful for God’s grace. Am so blessed that He applies His soothing balm of forgiveness when I fail Him. Thank you for this gentle and loving reminder of how God’s grace can be applied to us when we TURN to Him in repentance.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Beckie, your words always offer so much encouragement and hope! Yes, we can turn around and ask Jesus for forgiveness when we mess up, as we are bound to do at some point, if not many, in our lives. The good news is, we can start again on the right path with the Lord’s help.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s