Lessons from a terrible day of fishing.

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 5:1-11

It is quite likely that most of us are familiar with this story of the disciples and their difficulty catching fish on this particular evening. However if we focus in on just one particular verse we might find valuable treasure. We find that fishing is a great metaphor for life with all of it’s trials and tribulations and all that it brings.

After the disciples finish up with the fishing and just winding down tired and a bit depressed after catching exactly zero fish, we find that the Lord asks them to go for it once again, to let down their nets. Here is the reply of Peter on behalf of all the fishermen “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!” That was a statement with some pain behind it. The disciples were not out fishing for pleasure on the weekend. They had been out struggling in order to put food on their tables. Their very livelihood was at stake!

Now I want you to forget about fishing for a few moments. Please think about a moment in your life where you were at your wits end. Sometimes I have even spoken to God in this way. “Lord, I have tried over and over and over….and I continue to fail.” We all have these moments. We have times when it is difficult to even pray. We sometimes think that God has forgotten about us, or that He has abandoned us in the midst of our difficulties.

We all have these trying times in different areas of our lives. At times we struggle to do simple things like wake up and be productive. Other times we struggle through difficult relationships with co-workers or even with our spouses. We sometimes feel like we cannot do any more than we’ve done. We are at our wits end!

We also struggle to pray. I struggle to pray well. Sometimes people say to me “I have tried to pray but it was just too tough” or “I got bored” or “I don’t think it works.” Sometimes we pray and feel that absolutely nothing was accomplished. We are like the disciples as we fish for God’s blessings and we hope to catch the gifts of the Holy Spirit…such as patience, joy, gentleness, humility and love. The simple truth is this: You can’t catch fish unless you go fishing. It is the same with all of our struggles. Fish don’t just jump into the boat because you want them. Relationships don’t fix themselves. Habits don’t develop without effort. And prayer doesn’t work well in theory.

You want to be patient, kind, gentle, joyful and loving? That is great! Now what are you prepared to do to catch those virtues? To be sure we do not develop these virtues because of our own effort. That is not the point of the gospel at all. The point here is that we become like the disciples and continue to be obedient to Christ despite the difficulties and obstacles that stand in our way. After Peter said “Lord we toiled all night and took nothing.” He continued saying “But at thy word I will let down the nets.” Amazing! When he was at the end of his rope he did not curse God or blame the others or simply give up. He obeyed. His obedience allowed the Lord Jesus Christ to bless him richly.

God allowed this difficulty to see what these disciples were truly made of. You know you truly get to know someone’s character not when everything is going their way, but when things are not going smoothly. He saw what they were truly made of. And He also used this day of fishing to teach them something about His amazing goodness. God often allows these difficulties to demonstrate His care for us and His power over our lives.

These difficulties force us to stop relying on our own strengths. They remind us that whatever we have, we are really quite weak. The greatest thing that can happen when we have difficulties is that we put God right at the front of our mind. We are forced to acknowledge our Creator and we are reminded that “without Him we can do nothing.” So let’s not spend all of our time complaining when things don’t go quite as expected. Let’s not allow the blessings to fly out the window. Let’s use this as a chance to say “Lord Jesus, I am weak, I am tired, and I have no other help but You!”

And Glory be to God forever AMEN!


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