After working tirelessly only to see so many potential hopes, dreams, and plans for ministry fall apart, this past year has left many burnt-out and tempted to question their direction from the Lord. Additionally difficult, our culture has fostered an attitude that swiftly questions God when dissatisfaction, disillusionment, and disappointment ensues in our efforts to follow after Christ. Such perceived setbacks have a way of running leaders ragged, leaving them emotionally drained with little drive or passion left.
The disciples understood this feeling. Having given up all they knew to walk with a man who claimed to be the Son of God, they chose to set out on a journey poised for glorious and unfailing success. However, three years of service culminated in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. In the days immediately following His death, His disciples found themselves right back where they started, casting nets on a fishing boat. They were hit by the unexpected in a way that leaves a person reconsidering what they were called to do in the first place.
However, even though the disciples judged their situation a setback, our Lord’s actions were anything but. In John 21, we see Christ return to His followers as the resurrected Messiah. In finding His followers frustratingly fishing in vain, true to His character, the Lord gently instructs them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. The disciples hear a familiar voice and a recognizably unique instruction: an invitation to change their approach.
They had lived this moment before, when Jesus first called them to follow after Him, and they recognized in these simple words that it was Christ calling once again. Jesus not only reignites the disciples’ hope in Him, but also demonstrates the power faith holds in giving us sight in seasons of sorrow, confusion, and desperation. God has a way of meeting us in our disappointments to remind us of what He has called us to. There is no situation He is unable to transform for His good use (Romans 8:28).
In a world marked by sin, disappointing situations happen. People lose their jobs, things happen beyond their control, experience financial difficulty, relational loss, and go through seasons of physical and mental illness. Life happens. In these moments where we feel the pain of rejection, failure, and loss, we can begin to doubt the Lord’s initial instruction to begin with. Did we hear correctly? Were we working hard enough? During these times, we find ourselves desperately needing Jesus all the more to teach us how to navigate this world, just as He did for His disciples.
The good news is that Jesus still meets us here today. For those needing comfort and reassurance after a year that has left many exhausted and disoriented, it is paramount that we remember the hope to be found in the God who does not change (Hebrews 13:8). When ministry does not work out the way we imagined, we may rest assured that the Lord’s greater purpose cannot be stopped by mortal hands. For in such moments of distress, God treats us just like the first disciples of Christ, affirming our mission but altering our plan of implementation. He gently invites us to toss our nets on the other side of the boat.
Only you know where the past year has left you. However, instead of isolating in self-deprecating doubt and going back to the old ways of life, remember that familiar instruction from the Lord. Trust that God is capable of continuing His mission through you in any season with a greater purpose than we may be able to see just yet. In doing so, we can rely on the Lord’s sight and wisdom to guide us instead of our own faculties. Through faith, let us continue to cast our nets out.
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