Last month my family spent time backpacking in the mountains. We had high hopes of enjoying freshly caught trout, and we dutifully packed along much equipment for this fishing expedition. We gave it our best effort, enduring rain, hail, and cold, and yet we were utterly disappointed. On our last evening in the mountains, I hoped earnestly that my children would have the privilege of catching a fish – a first-time experience for some of them. But it was not to be. We had to be content eating the dried food we packed along. Though we still enjoyed our trip, it was a small source of disappointment. We tried so hard and yet our efforts did not yield fulfillment – at least in the form of a fish to eat.
Many experiences in life do not turn out as we would prefer. We know that sometimes our best efforts will lead to disappointment. But sometimes God also intervenes in a way that causes us to look with wonder at his work in our lives. When a contract comes through at the last minute, we land a job we needed, or we experience the grace of healing for a loved one, we experience tears of relief and joy at such times. When our boats are loaded unexpectedly, we then see the goodness of God; we also see our own shortcomings and lack of trust in God’s goodness. Like Peter, who initially responded to Jesus as “Master”, perhaps out of courtesy or a sense of social obligation, we respond to God differently after he fills our boat. We see in a new way; our eyes are opened to the work of God and to our need to grow in it.
Paul’s letter to the Colossians also reminds us that we need the perspective of community and prayer to avoid being trapped by disappointments. Having “the spiritual wisdom and understanding to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” is not something we acquire or retain very well on our own. I need that unceasing prayer about which Paul writes! Peter could not have understood his night of fruitless labor fully until his boat was filled that next day. Perhaps our efforts that don’t pay off immediately are also shaping our lives in a way that is not yet apparent to us. We need the encouragement of friends during such times.
Moreover, we need to be reminded of an abiding and important truth: God “has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1: 12b-14). These are not just empty words. We are being equipped to live with God and the saints forever. Let us pray for one another and share a kind word with a friend today who may need encouragement to press on in the midst of a difficult time.