After their Teacher and friend was brutally murdered, along with all their hopes, they did the only thing they knew to do. The disciples of Jesus went back to their lives, back to their work, back to their fishing boat. We can only imagine the desolation they felt as they prepared the nets and set out that night, while it was still dark on the water and in their minds and hearts, too. Everything was dark, and it seemed as though the dawn would never come. But at least there was fishing; these men knew how to be fishermen and they settled into old routines.
But there were no fish.
The reality of it must have stung, just one more thing that didn’t go according to plan. Maybe they muttered under their breath or shook exhausted fists at the sky at the unfairness of it all. I have done both those things in my time.
As the sun peeked out over the horizon, they heard a man calling to them from the shore. He was asking about their catch, and it was surely one more punch to the gut to admit their failure that night. I imagine them grumbling their answer, and maybe even rolling their eyes at the stranger’s advice when he told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat.
Why would they do such a thing?
The boat was small, and one side or another might make little difference, but still they humored the man and cast their nets, and were amazed to find them so full of fish that they couldn’t haul it all in. John immediately recognized the miracle and the Lord who had done it, and Simon Peter jumped into the water to swim for him while the other disciples dragged the catch into shore. (John 21:1-14)
When we’re in the dark and faced with devastation or pain or confusion or circumstances we can’t control, our impulse is to stop and simply do the things we know to do. Fish, or go to work or to church. We can pray on autopilot or simply do whatever is in front of us, whether it’s scrolling on a screen or eating or drinking, all the while shaking our heads in disbelief and incomprehension of just how messed up everything is, the betrayal, and how we never could have expected things to happen the way they did.
But what if in those dark moments, we pivot and do the very thing that doesn’t make sense? What if we take a risk and cast our nets on the other side of the boat? This might mean seeing a situation in a completely different way, or setting a new goal, or shifting our perceptions, but it will certainly mean surrender and obedience as we lower those nets on the other side of the boat despite our real world understanding of how it all works. When we do, maybe we’ll find unexpected abundance in blessings we could never have seen coming. Maybe we’ll find our Savior has been there all along, rooting us on and preparing a fire and bread for the meal we most need. Maybe we’ll see resurrection and renewal and restoration, bigger and better than the way we once thought it was supposed to go. Maybe we’ll see miracles before our very eyes. Maybe we’ll emerge from our dark places and see the sun gloriously rise.
What are your ‘other side of the boat’ moments? How did God provide in unexpected abundance? Would love to hear more in the comments!