Monday, April 9, 2018

Desperation

“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. ‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’

‘No,’ they answered.

He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ 

As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.” (John 21:1-9 NIV)

Not long after my first wife announced her intention to leave our marriage, I made appointments with the couples that we had led in a Bible study. I carried with me a written statement because I knew I wouldn’t be able to tell them of our pending divorce without something written. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do in my life, along with informing the entire group of more than 100 students of the situation and my impending sabbatical in order to deal with the emotional aftermath. I was broken and desperate.

As I have looked back on that time more than 15 years ago, I consider it to be one of the more spiritually significant events in my life. I was at the absolute bottom emotionally, which led me to a reliance on the Lord. At that moment, it seemed I had no where else to turn, so I turned my attention fully to the Lord.

Peter found himself in a similar emotional state. He had denied knowing the Lord three times in a matter of hours (John 18:16-27). Jesus was crucified, but had risen and was now alive. He had appeared to Peter and all the disciples, but then hadn’t been seen again. Peter didn’t know what to make of the events over the past several weeks, so he did what many of us would do—go back to doing what he had been doing, get back into a familiar routine. So, he went fishing.

Yet, what he and the other disciples who joined him found was yet more misery, not less. After a full night of fishing, they had caught absolutely nothing. Not one fish had found their nets. As dawn appeared on the horizon in the East, they were exhausted and discouraged. I am guessing at that moment they had reached the bottom. They were at a point of desperation. 

Then the voice of a stranger pierced the early morning light and offered some advice: “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” The thought must have seemed ludicrous to them since they had been fishing all night. Yet, they were desperate and hungry, so they did what He suggested.

In the days following Jesus’ last appearance to them, we can assume they were just trying to figure out what was next for them, and their return to their old job of fishing indicates they had failed to figure it out on their own. But once their last attempt to do something, anything failed, there were no answers. They had come up empty and had reached the end of themselves.

This is why I believe they were open to the Lord’s crazy suggestion to throw their nets out one more time. When we’re desperate enough, we’re open to almost any idea that might possibly help us.

As with all of us, it took the disciples awhile trying to figure things out on their own before they turned to the Lord. That is our nature, isn’t it? While we are comfortable enough, we try to do things on our own. It is only when we run out of options that our hearts open up to the Lord’s help and guidance.

Today, recognize the Lord often allows us to try to figure out a particular dilemma on our own in order for us to fail and reach the end of ourselves. Then when the time is right and we are open to His leading, He will make His presence known and lead us out of the situation in which we find ourselves. It’s not that desperation is required. He is always present to assist us, but typically we have to reach the end of ourselves before we are open to His help.

© Jim Musser 2018

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