A recent study from the CDC reveals the negative mental health impacts across our country throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and the results aren’t good. 11% of people seriously considered suicide, 13% started or increased substance abuse and 31% showed symptoms of anxiety or depression. Clearly, there is a correlation to being isolated, panic-stricken, going through grief and without options to declining mental wellness. It feels as though we are in a world-wide dip.
Although not covered in most studies or magazines, there is good news remaining amid all this bad: there is Someone who sees us in our suffering, who wants to get right into the muck with us and help us out. His way brings us out of despair and sets us on hope when everything feels dim.
Simon Peter from the Scriptures experienced this kind of encounter first-hand, and his experience shows us what it means to feel undone and be put back together by Jesus.
One day, Simon Peter was fishing all night but not catching anything. The next morning, Jesus saw that Simon Peter was struggling and called out to him: “One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets” (Luke 5: 1-2). While everybody else was hanging on Jesus’ every word, these fishermen were on edge, “washing their nets.”
But Jesus saw them wrapping up their night of work and still came over to ask if He could get into their boat and finish teaching the crowd. They agreed, but can you picture the look that must have been on Simon Peter’s face? He was exhausted, his blistered hands were washing his nets, and then this guy walked over and asked them to go back out.
Jesus said, “I’m going to get in your boat and preach a sermon.” And Simon Peter probably thought, how long is the sermon? He didn’t want to be there. He didn’t want to listen to some stranger. He wanted to go home. But for some reason, Simon Peter agreed, and for his effort, he got a front-row seat to hear the greatest teacher the world has ever known. Watch this: Peter was no longer on the edge.
Jesus sees you on the edge. He sees you on the edge of disappointment and discouragement, no matter how large or small the suffering seems to you. Whether you lost a loved one to COVID-19, a job or an exciting trip you’d eagerly anticipated, Jesus sees you, and He cares. And Jesus says, “I don’t want you there. I want you by Me.”
So Jesus taught the crowd from the boat, but His greatest lesson of the day came next: “When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets’” (Luke 5:4–5).
“Because You say so.”
That’s a powerful clue about how to get out of the dip. Despite the frustration, Simon Peter obeyed Jesus. These men had tried very hard to fill their nets, but they had nothing to show for it.
Meanwhile, Jesus was probably thinking, yeah, but you didn’t have Me in your boat. You need to know that you’re not going to catch anything in your strength, but when you get Jesus in your boat, all that changes. Proximity to Jesus can alter your perception and provision. When you enter into a trust relationship with Jesus, where He’s directing your life, He brings not only calm but also a plan. A plan to get out of the dip.
Maybe you feel like you’ve worked hard in life to fill your nets by yourself. You’ve tried to fill your nets with relationships. A job. Education. Pleasures. And you keep throwing the net out expecting it to return full, but every time it comes back empty. As so many have experienced throughout this pandemic, oftentimes, all of those things can be taken away instantly, and if we aren’t careful, we find ourselves slipping into hopelessness.
This is where we have to be brutally honest with ourselves.
Ask yourself if this is a true statement: “Everywhere I cast my net, the result is always the same. Empty.” And now you’re frustrated. Tired. Empty. Just like Simon Peter, you feel all washed up. Maybe you’ve even said, “I’m done!”
Some fishermen blame the spot. “This spot is cold.” So they move locations hoping for a better outcome. In the same way, some people try to fill up by moving to a different city, taking another job, ending old relationships and beginning new ones, changing churches, or whatever. But too often it’s not about the what or where — it’s about the who. You can adjust all this and still be empty.
Interestingly, Jesus took Simon Peter back to the same spot they had toiled all night and blessed them with the biggest catch they’d ever seen. You see, all of this is about obedience to the One who blesses the spot. Put yourself in the right place of obedience, and God will open up the right door of opportunity.
Jesus sees you on the edge. He sees your labor and your emptiness. If you want more, start doing what Jesus says. Remember, Peter was washing his nets. He was done. He was complaining, stating the facts that they had fished all night and hadn’t caught anything. We do the same thing. We list the facts of everything we’ve tried and lost as if to say, “If there were more out there in life, I would’ve found it by now.”
Still, Peter adds, “But because You said so…” See, there’s the difference. There’s blessing, protection, and provision because God’s Word guides us to more.
The fishermen reluctantly rowed back out to the same spot they had combed through for hours already. But this time, they started pulling in the nets, and the nets were starting to snap.
How have so many gotten out of the dip? By listening to God’s Word. The same way Peter did. “Because you say so…” It was never about fish. Jesus just wanted Peter to know the source of all good things. And Jesus wants to lead you to the more you’ve been looking for.
Adapted from “Don’t Quit in the Dip” by Shaun Nepstad. Used with permission from Worthy Books, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Shaun Nepstad and his wife, Dianna, are the founders of Fellowship Church in Antioch, California, which was recognized by Outreach Magazine in 2018 as one of the fastest-growing churches in the nation. They along with their four daughters live in the San Francisco Bay Area in California.