Keeping your faith burning bright
when all you want to do is burn out
In Faith in the Fog, bestselling author Jeff Lucas explores the pain and fear that many Christians feel when walking through a spiritual fog, when doubts about faith undermine the joy of belief.
After the Resurrection—when the disciples found themselves on the fog bank of unresolved shame, failure, and confusion—what Jesus did to help them and what he didn’t do is both enlightening and inspirational.
Here, you will focus on the person of Jesus and the way he approaches those who are worn out when life is tough. Who Jesus really is—rather than the way we instinctively perceive him emotionally and theologically—is what will make the difference and help clear the fog.
Through a broad approach, Faith in the Fog tackles the feelings of failure, uselessness, and shame, which are often the underlying causes of depression and burnout among Christians.
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About the Author
Author and speaker Jeff Lucas travels internationally in a ministry of Bible teaching which carries a specific vision to encourage and equip the church. Jeff is the author of twenty-two books, as well as a number of study guides, booklets and a DVD teaching series called ‘Life Journeys”. Jeff’s books have been translated into French, Italian, Korean, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and German. He writes a monthly column for Christianity Magazine.He broadcasts three weekly radio shows. Jeff and Kay live in Loveland, Colorado, where he holds a teaching post at Timberline Church, Fort Collins.
Read an Excerpt
Faith in the Fog
believing in what you cannot see
By Jeff Lucas
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2013 Jeff Lucas
All rights reserved.
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you."
Nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.
No man ever stepped into the same river twice, because it's not the same river, and it's not the same man.
There are moments when I feel "time trapped," hemmed in by the present, and wish I could break free from the shackles of what is and go back to what was.
Recently, after enjoying a blissful holiday with our closest friends, we stayed on at the hotel for a few extra days after they had left. But although the sun still shone, some emotional clouds rolled in. The familiar landscape we had enjoyed together, the coffee shops and poolside chairs, all lost their allure because our friends were gone; our joy was overshadowed by nostalgia—or perhaps something deeper.
Sometimes the feeling goes beyond sentimentality or the natural sadness that comes when a happy season ends. I have awakened in the middle of the night feeling breathless, on the verge of a panic attack, because of the unbridgeable chasm between my present and my past. It's brutal to face the fact that everything, however beautiful, is temporary.
But we all have to face this harsh truth.
Birth jettisons us into endless travel, and absolutely no stopping is allowed. However good the day, life insists that we move onward, always. We are pinioned by time, which does not only march on, but demands that we keep in strict step with it.
And as I rue the truth that what was will never be again, I'm not alone. Theologian and writer Monica Coleman says:
I've never thought of myself as someone who clings to the past ... I want to go back in time. When I put it that way, I know it's not possible. I know I cannot do anything over. I know I cannot be who I was ... in the space amidst the knowledge that I can't go back in time, my inability to see in front of myself, and my desperate need for peace, I need the past. I need the good parts of the past.... I need to remember that I have been happy before. I need to remember the faith that I can't feel at the moment. I need the past to come to me.
The clock ticks, always forward, never back. The second hand sweeps slowly around. Perhaps that's one reason why the gaggle of weary fishermen headed for the familiar territory of Galilee. It wasn't just because it was home.
Perhaps they needed the past to come to them once more.
* * *
Some grim-faced writers and commentators rush to condemn the disciples as they trekked back to Galilee. The fishers of men should never have gone back to fishing for fish, they mutter. That little fishing trip has been described by commentators as "apostasy," "unthinkable behavior," and as "aimless activity undertaken in desperation."
Bah! Humbug. Tough words—and unjustified, I think.
Surely the criticism is ill-founded, not least because an angelic messenger promised the disciples they would meet Jesus in Galilee. Jesus himself had reiterated the command to gather in Galilee when he appeared to the worshiping women on Easter morning. They weren't actually told to take to the water, but surely there was a more mundane reason for that fishing trip.
The disciples still had to eat.
If some commentators line up to rebuke the fishermen, there's no stiff rebuke from Jesus when he arrived at the beach. Arriving there when the hapless gaggle were probably ready to abandon their futile fishing trip, he even helped them with their net-casting technique. In fact, when Peter realizes it's Jesus giving the instructions, he jumps out of the boat and heads toward shore—hardly the behavior of a fugitive caught in the act of doing something suspect.
How swiftly we can condemn what Jesus welcomes and blesses.
Rather than question their motives for the fishing trip, we'd do better to consider the disciples' mood that morning, for if we are to grasp the significance of what happened on the beach, a sense of their emotional condition that day is important.
The resurrected Jesus arrived and did some cooking, not just because this was an appointment set on his kingdom timetable, but because his somewhat exhausted and confused friends really needed that meal, the silence shared during the cooking of it, and the conversation that followed.
Did the disciples feel the hollow ache of "time trap" as they trudged back to Galilee from Jerusalem? At last they were home again, a welcome sight after the cataclysmic events of the first Easter in Jerusalem.
But they were home alone without Jesus.
The familiar sights, sounds, and smells of the Galilee would have constantly reminded them of headier days gone by, days that now seemed gone forever.
We look at the cross and the resurrection through the lens of the New Testament, with the clarity that two thousand years of theological reflection brings to that universe-changing weekend. But they did not have that same lens.
He had been very dead. Now he was very much alive. Their reaction was not just one of exhilaration or understanding—they were riding on an emotional and theological roller coaster.
They had begun to mourn his awful death, but now their minds and hearts were assaulted by the truth that their friend and rabbi was alive once more. Even walking through the extremities of those three days could have caused some of them to totter into emotional breakdown. The little band of friends and followers were confused, believing, and doubting—all at once.
Consider some of the phrases used to describe their emotional condition after the resurrection, emotions caused by the news that Jesus was risen, and by his later appearing among them:
They were startled. Frightened. They thought they'd seen a
They were troubled. Doubting. Joy mingled with their
They needed to have their minds "opened" to understand.
They were afraid yet filled with joy.
They worshiped, but some doubted.
They were trembling, bewildered, and afraid.
They did not believe. They stubbornly refused to believe.
They gathered fearfully behind locked doors.
They were overjoyed.
There were a myriad of questions:
What does this mean?
What will become of us?
What are we supposed to do?
And most importantly this, from those who had lived for three years with him:
How can we live now—without Jesus?
His friends had to grieve this reality: he was alive again, but he would never be with them in the same way that he had been, every day, face-to-face, for those three amazing years. Bible scholar Don Carson sums up their mood: "There is neither the joy nor the assurance, not to mention the sense of mission and the spirit of unity, that characterized the church when freshly endowed with the promised Spirit."
We often overlook that Jesus took the disciples through what must have been an unforgettable forty-day training period between his resurrection and ascension. We're not told much about what happened in those six weeks except that he appeared to them and spoke about the kingdom of God.
But this much was still true: he was going away, and they would have to live with the pain of that, even though he'd tried to prepare them for the parting.
And so a Galilean homecoming for the disciples was surely bittersweet. Poignant memories were stirred by places where they'd been with him, so many familiar trails walked and hillsides climbed.
It was here that the remarkable journey had begun, as Jesus chose Galilee as the venue to launch his ministry.
Here the disciples had first bumped into him and responded to his incredible invitation that changed absolutely everything for them: he had offered to become their rabbi. Most likely they had no idea what "fishing for men" meant, nor any notion about the epic nature of their mission, but the strange compulsion to be with him overruled their many unanswered questions, at least for a while.
Jesus began his preaching ministry at the little synagogue in Capernaum, a shoreline village. Later he would tour the synagogues of Galilee, primarily focusing on deliverance, which certainly turned many heads, catapulting him into a celebrity spotlight, a role he always resisted.
What a strange teacher he had been, so revolutionary and yet apparently shy of the huge numbers that sought him out. But still they came, grabbing, clamoring for him. Some were so frantic they even vandalized a roof, hacking through it to lower their disabled friend to Jesus.
At times, things must have seemed to the disciples that things were getting out of hand: the security concern as the ebbing crowds pressed closer, causing them to hastily push a boat offshore, turning it into a makeshift pulpit; the catering crisis—saved by a packed lunch and a miracle—five thousand fed to the full with leftovers that filled baskets. The disciples had watched wide-eyed as lepers were made clean, not only physically healed, but released from the exile that leprosy had sentenced them to. Now they were welcomed in from the cold, taking their places in the community once more. And then there was that life-threatening storm on the unpredictable Sea of Galilee. They had watched, terrified, as Jesus strode across the foamy tips of the boiling waves. Even the gale-force winds had calmed at his word.
Here in Galilee, beggars' banquets were thrown for ladies of the night and other "undesirables." Crooked tax collectors joined in the feasts and promptly offered extravagant refunds.
Here too there was scandal and outrage. Religious barons were mortified at his teaching and outraged by his eating and drinking habits. The occupying Romans were also a constant worry. Galilee had been a breeding ground for political revolutionaries, and so the Romans had brutally stomped on any would-be Messiah figures, determined to stifle any emerging resistance movements. No wonder Jesus insisted that people who experienced his healing power keep quiet about it—he and his team didn't need any unwelcome attention from the authorities.
But Galilee's scenery reminded them of more than those tense, powerful, adventurous, jaw-dropping episodes. There were memories that triggered tears as well, recollections that stung them with regret.
The winds and the waves had obeyed him, but the disciples—and some who were more on the fringes of his group—hadn't always been so compliant. There was the dark season when many decided that they no longer wanted to be with Jesus. Watching the backs of those who walked away sliced him to the heart, and he asked them: Will you leave also?
They'd promised faithfulness. But eventually, of course, they'd do exactly that.
He was arrested, and everyone fled.
And there was the unbearably painful day when his mother and brothers traveled to Galilee to stage an intervention. They'd planned to take him home forcibly, fearing he'd lost his mind.
And had they, the disciples, lost their minds when here, in Galilee, they'd argued about who was the greatest among them? What were they thinking?
In Galilee, the happiest and saddest memories mingled for these friends and apprentices of Jesus. But surely one among them felt the greatest impact of all that had happened there.
* * *
They'd already met privately once. There had been a previous meeting one-on-one between the resurrected Jesus and Peter. It's mentioned twice in Scripture but was obviously highly confidential, because absolutely nothing is known about it, apart from the timing: Easter Day. Of all of the conversations that have ever taken place in history, perhaps that's the one I'd most like to eavesdrop on.
Imagine it. Friend turned betrayer meets the one he betrayed.
How did the conversation begin?
What was Jesus' tone of voice, his facial expression?
Did Peter cry? Was his denial even mentioned?
As we'll see, the breakfast discussion between Jesus and Peter hints that perhaps it was not raised during their first meeting, which says something very intriguing about Jesus.
We'll never know for sure, but regardless, consider this: that first face-to-face meeting that Peter had with the resurrected Jesus didn't resolve everything.
Some Chris tians are addicted to the instant. They insist that if we could all just have epic encounters with God—or better still, revival—then we and our culture would quickly get "fixed." I admire their tenacity. But the suggestion that growth and development comes from attending more electrifying meetings or revival ser vices can create false expectations and immaturity. Even though Peter had already experienced a personal, private consultation with the risen Christ, that didn't resolve all of his "issues." That would still take a lifetime. Discipleship is not just about us craving big moments and major encounters; it involves our slow, sometimes painful growth in the day-in, day-out experiences in the academy called life.
That said, those moments when God meets us can be a vital part of our ongoing journey—and Jesus had another one of those planned for Peter and his friends.
But as we'll see, sometimes God meets us in ways that we least expect.
* * *
Was there anything, apart from hunger, that prompted Peter to plan a fishing trip that day?
Perhaps so, because it was here, on the Sea of Galilee, that the most exhilarating experience of his life took place. He'd done the impossible—he'd walked on water. Never mind that after a few steps he sank. The fact is, he had felt the unearthly sensation of water becoming solid underfoot as he briefly strode across the waves.
Or did it feel like that at all? Did he hover across the top of the water, his feet skimming the turbulent surface, his legs and thighs soaked by the icy spray?
Even more amazing was that the walk across the waves had been Peter's idea. He'd suggested it to Jesus, who had agreed. What had being around Jesus done to him, that he could have come up with such a fantastic proposal?
As he decided to put the family boat back in the water, did he shake his head and wonder if it had all just been a dream? Perhaps other snapshots from the last three years were racing through his mind.
When he'd first met Jesus, introduced by his brother Andrew, he would have been clueless about the roller-coaster ride ahead. All he knew was that there was something about this man that both repelled and attracted him, a confusing entwining of emotions.
On one hand, there was something about Jesus—they way he looked, the way he spoke—that made Peter feel undone, incomplete, and sinful. This was more than just masculine competitiveness and intimidation. At their first meeting, Peter had felt so overwhelmed by shame that he'd even asked this fascinating stranger to go away. Helpfully, Jesus hadn't complied and instead offered some kind assurance: Don't be afraid. You'll be a fisher of men.
Perhaps that's why he'd felt such a powerful compulsion to be with Jesus. He was so disturbing and yet so reassuring. Jesus had interrupted and altered the life of Peter, a man with a small business and domestic responsibilities (he had a wife—that's how he got a mother-in-law) and who lived in an extended-family home. Yet Peter chose to abandon caution and follow this most unusual man. Perhaps we've done the same, offering our lives to what at times seems so certain and then, sometimes, so tenuous and even implausible, yet still we follow.
Jesus can prove difficult to live with, and yet we can't live without him.
And so Peter had followed, with immediate, startling results.
It was in his own home in Capernaum that Peter first saw a power unleashed that was unlike anything he'd ever witnessed. His mother-in-law had been struck down by a severe fever, but she'd recovered at a touch from Jesus. One moment she was bedridden, the next she was fixing them a meal. And that's when everything quickly became even more bewildering.
Later that same night, like a scene from hell, hordes of demon-tormented and sick people began showing up at Peter's house. And as the fisherman watched, evil spirits and devastating diseases were sent packing at Jesus' word.
Cataclysmic events birth multitudes of questions, and throughout his friendship with Jesus, Peter had never been short of questions or reluctant to ask them. Willing to speak up when others were silent, ready to blurt out what others only dared to think, he was ideally situated to inquire, privileged as he was to be part of the inner cabinet around Jesus that was James, John, and himself. Those three had front-row viewing of some episodes that the other nine disciples were excluded from.
Like the day they arrived at the home of a young girl who had just died. Jesus ejected the wailing, garment-tearing professional mourners, and only Peter, James, John, and the girl's stunned parents witnessed her being raised.
Then there was the transfiguration experience on the mountainside that only the triumvirate were privy to. It would have been a long climb to the summit; thinner air and an arduous day's hiking had taken its toll.
They were sleepy.
Excerpted from Faith in the Fog by Jeff Lucas. Copyright © 2013 Jeff Lucas. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
A Very Important Foreword 9
Prologue-Estranged on the Shore 15
1 Time Trapped 31
2 A Broken Pier 47
3 Behold, I Come Quietly 73
4 Bringing an Offering of Nothing 89
5 By the Fire 107
6 Let's Eat 127
7 Jesus, I Am Not in Love with You 143
8 Making God Look Good 159
9 Follow Me? 171
10 Mind Your Own Business 185
For Further Reading 205
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