“It is the Lord!”

In the weeks after Easter, my home church studied the stories that followed the resurrection. We called it “40 Days with Jesus,” and this sermon series carried us through Pentecost. Within that period of time, we read about the disciples as they went out to fish. Jesus had made a few public appearances after the resurrection, but this time, the disciples didn’t realize it was him until there was a miraculous catch of fish and Simon Peter exclaimed, “It is the Lord!” He then jumped into the water to meet Him.
What struck me profoundly in this story was Simon Peter’s recognition of Jesus’ presence. In a matter of moments, he just knew it was the Lord. It caused me to ask myself a very important question: When I know the Lord is present, why don’t I react as Peter did? No, I probably won’t be literally jumping into a body of water, but perhaps I could be better at letting my joy and trust in Him spill over.
I can certainly learn a lot from the disciples in this passage, but sometimes I think I can learn more from what isn’t written in John 21— if I read between the lines. I have to wonder about the disciples’ experiences at that time. Were they living in fear that the soldiers would come and drag them away for their association with their Master? Were they feeling lost without their Teacher in the days after the resurrection? True, He had appeared to them, but things were definitely not the same as they were before the crucifixion. Jesus had prepared them for what would come, but they didn’t understand. Now with a miraculous catch of fish, it was clear (to Peter, at least) that He had come and provided for their needs.
Now, I have not physically seen the Lord as Peter and the disciples have experienced, but I know He is real. Although I can’t take Him in with my eyes, I have felt His presence. Sometimes, I am better at recognizing those tangible or obvious reminders that He is real and with me. But often, I take His presence for granted, and I go through my days without recognizing His work, even in the mundane.
Like the disciples, it has to be explained to me again and again. I need to be reminded that He is good and that He will provide. He is always here with me, even when I don’t feel an obvious presence. And when I do recognize Him in the midst of my mess, I need to be better at responding in gratitude, because if I don’t, I can so easily revert back to the next activity on my check-list.
I can recall numerous opportunities when I didn’t recognize the Lord until days or even weeks later, and it saddens me that I didn’t take the time to revel in the joy that comes from surrendering to His plan and purpose. He always showed up, but I didn’t always see Him.
• Losing out on what could have been a successful book contract
• A driver backing out right before I needed to travel to Madison
• Illness in a mold-infested apartment
• Financial and medical insurance issues
It took some time to recognize God’s hand in the midst of struggle, but in the end, I began to realize that He had never left my side. He had appeared to give me my own miraculous catch, if you will. When the book contract fell through, I was disappointed, but it opened the door to probably one of the best concerts I had ever given on the same day I had received the bad news. I went on to finish The Promise, and I released it mere months later.
When my driver cancelled on me, mere days before an important event, I thought I would be left without transportation. But I had no reason to fear, for a good friend came through for me, and we were able to participate in some great conversation in our seven hours on the road.
My mold-infected apartment made me quite ill, and in the process I lost my voice due to the constant coughing and wheezing. But down the road was probably the most incredible promise. Little did I know that long-term allergies would not only lead to my employment at FRC but the gift of a home that I can now maintain with order and cleanliness.
And when financial issues came knocking at the door, I crumbled at first, not knowing why things had to happen this way. I was under considerable stress at that time, and it was yet another thing on my plate that I needed to deal with. But after talking and praying with my sister, she told me to leave it in God’s hands and He would take care of it. And He did! The resolution came far more quickly than I could have ever dreamed, and the victory after struggle was worth every tearful prayer.
As I basked in the peace that came with the resolved financial issues, I read a book by Karen Elman. In Let it Go, Elman writes about what we can gain through struggle and how we can recognize the Lord in the process. Like Elman, I have learned more about God in the midst of struggle than in the times when everything is moving along smoothly. I have also found that I have gained character traits that could only have been fashioned as I have walked through trials. I also have considered who might be watching me as I work through struggle. I will definitely say that I have a great deal to work on in this area, because I often wear my struggles on my sleeve. It isn’t hard for me to hide when I am having a bad day, and I need to be more positive in my attitude. By no means do I need to be perfect, but I need to be proactive about embracing challenges with inner joy instead of crumbling on the outside.
I have also considered that my experiences might be preparing me to interact with empathy toward someone who might be struggling in similar circumstances. I have begun to use my circumstances to prepare for encounters that only I will be fully able to understand and relate to. And finally, I have learned to ask God what He might be trying to teach me through challenging circumstances. It is only in learning about God, gaining character, being aware of who might be watching, gaining empathy for others, and listening to what He is saying to me that I can truly embrace His presence in my life, even through struggle.
I might not always recognize Him, like Peter did in that fishing boat, but the story serves as a reminder to always seek His presence, even in the midst of challenges. He might not always be visible, but He isn’t far away, with bulging nets of possibility!

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