“Launch out into the deep…” – Luke 5:4
For most of my adult life, I saw the majority of the mass of humanity as a river of suffering—a persistent flow of poverty, famine, disease, and heartache—while I stood on the shore, gamely throwing in an occasional life preserver. Then I would turn away, unable to bear the suffering.
I couldn’t stand to watch the pictures of famine, and of suffering; of children with distended bellies and mothers with dried up breasts futilely trying to feed their babies. I saw these images and clicked the channel or turned the page.
I told the Lord I couldn’t handle the heartbreak.
That surely I would die.
Meanwhile, God put people in my life who were doing what I could only fear.
They were in the middle of that massive river, engaged, involved, and making a difference, one person at a time. They were challenging me, inviting me to jump in.
I resisted for the longest time, until I couldn’t.
My time had come.
So, I went to Africa.
I went the first time, armed with knowledge and encouragement and a boyish sense of excitement. I was going on safari! But I was not prepared for how the Lord would change my life. The next trip pulled me in. God was pulling me into the river, urging me to “go deeper.”
Jesus often challenged His disciples to “go deeper.”
Once when Simon Peter and his fellow fisherman had experienced a frustrating night of fishing with little in their nets to show for it, Jesus came along and gave them some unusual instructions.
Now, these fishermen usually worked at night, when it wasn’t so hot, and they fished close to shore in the shallows where the fish gathered. But Jesus told them to “launch out into the deep,” in the day time, and then cast their nets.
Peter argued a bit, no doubt tempted to flaunt his many years as an experienced fisherman. But by now, he had come to respect Jesus, so after a mild protest, he responded, “at Your word I will let down my net.”
So they went deep, and their nets were filled to the point of breaking. Peter ended up throwing himself down at Jesus’ feet, and Jesus prophesied Peter’s future, declaring,
“From now on, you will catch men.” Peter and friends “forsook all and followed Him” (Luke 5:1-11).
So we went to one of the hardest places in Africa.
We went deep, pulled into the river, where I thought I would surely die. And you know what? My heart was broken, and I was grieved at the pain and suffering I saw, but I did not die. In fact, our nets were filled to overflowing with the beauty of the people we met, whose lives touched ours as much as we ministered to them.
The children who gathered around at the orphanages blessed us. They would grab our hands, five or ten at a time, just to feel some reassuring adult contact. It was an honor to be there, to be “Jesus with skin” to the children who have so little.
Don’t be afraid to go deeper, to launch out where the Lord directs.
Don’t stand on the shore of life and watch the river flow by. Don’t harden your hearts to the sounds and needs of humanity.
He heard it all.
He wept, He prayed, and He gave Himself.
Look around you—whether it be overseas or right in your own neighborhood, the river flows constantly, the needs are great.
Is it messy?
Even dirty and painful at times?
Oh yes. But you won’t die from the heartache or the giving. You’ll find joy. In fact, only then will you be truly alive.
[Photo: amintirivizuale, Creative Commons]