Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing.
One has to suspect that Jesus caused Peter, James, and John to catch nothing all night. They were professionals. Fish get caught at night, they knew. That’s why they fished then. It was likely a shocker that they caught nothing. All night! The Lord was certainly behind that.
Why? Because He was working on His action parable, on teaching a profound truth that would end up with the disciples leaving their nets and following Him. He was giving them a sign that He was truly God in human flesh, something Peter came to realize in fear and trembling.
But think what the disciples had to go through for this to happen. Think of the toil and sweat and discouragement they went through. Last meditation I suggested the psychological goings on of the apostles is sort of irrelevant to the bigger themes in the story. So focusing on what the disciples went through over the night might seem counterintuitive to what I said previously. But perhaps we can learn here how we don’t need to get caught up in our emotions. While Peter, James, and John are falling into all their “thought traps,” Jesus is hanging back thinking, “I’ve got this.”
What are “thought traps”? Those are those little traps we fall into when something bad happens. They usually involve the words “always” or “never.” So, for instance, you fail to get someplace on time, and you’ll tell yourself, “I’m always late!” That, then, turns into negative self-identity: “I’m a procrastinator.” So, occasional misdeeds turn into habitual action turn into ones identity. It’s how Satan, the Accuser, works his accusatory darts. “I’ll never change!”
Did Peter, James, and John go through some thought trap? Certainly they could have. “Why is the Lord against us! I’m always failing at this fishing thing. I’m not a good fisherman.” Certainly we go through these thoughts when bad things happen to us.
Yet, in the background, totally unbeknownst to Peter, was Jesus, causing their night to be miserable. Not because Jesus likes to make people miserable, but because Jesus was working something way bigger and better that Peter had no clue about. The same must be true for us, because the same Jesus is at work with us.
I think of St. Paul, when he had to go to jail. He too could easily have thought, “Wow, how useless I am here. Why is God doing this to me? How can I reach out to my flock? How can I preach to them if I’m not there? Well, I guess I’ll write some letters.”
And the rest, as they say, is history. We’ve contemplated before that in Christ, the problem of evil goes away, because He has redeemed it all. So we can truly say, “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” In Christ, there is no bad; there is no evil. He is working everything for good.
Still, when you’re in the middle of the night, toiling, trying to make a living, going through the dark night of the soul wondering about what is going on, it’s not fun. But again, this is why we don’t focus on our emotions, or our psychological goings on. Jesus works all things for our good.