I was talking with a friend of mine the other day who was struggling. She was separated from her husband, and was struggling with figuring out how to move forward. She had high hopes that her marriage would work out, but it didn’t seem to be happening.
She was also dealing with the judgments of other people from her church, as well as her own guilt and shame when she thought about what it would mean for her to get divorced. At one point, she said, “I feel like the woman at the well.” She had hoped her story would be one of God redeeming her marriage, but now she felt like the opposite was happening. She wondered if she would be disqualified from future ministry because of her failed marriage.
After our conversation, I went back and re-read the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. I was curious—what ended up happening to the woman at the well?
I’m picking up the story after Jesus tells her that he is the Messiah. Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him… Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers (John 4:28-30, 39-41).
As it turned out, the woman at the well had an incredible ministry, introducing an entire town to the person of Jesus. How did she do it?
- She used her story. The woman at the well had some struggles in her past. She had been married and divorced five times, and wasn’t married to the man she was currently living with. But when she came into contact with Jesus, she didn’t shy away from her story, she used her story. Sometimes we think we need to have this great story about all the awesome things we have done for God. But I think a better story is about what God has done for us, in spite of our weakness and struggles. That’s the Gospel. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote that in his struggles, God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” In response, Paul said that he would boast all the more gladly about his weaknesses, so that Christ’s power would rest on him (2 Corinthians 12:9).
- She pointed people to Jesus. The woman at the well didn’t try to do a lot of fancy preaching all by herself. Instead, she kept it simple. She told people her story, and then she brought them to Jesus. Sometimes we might think we need to be some great orator or have a set of special skills in order to do something for God. But when it comes down to it, we don’t have much power to convince anyone of anything. Don’t worry too much about ‘selling Jesus.’ Instead, be honest with people about what God has done in your life, and how God’s grace is changing you. Point people to Jesus, and let that be enough.
Discussion: Do you feel like something about your past has disqualified you from ministry? What is one lesson you can take from the story of the woman at the well?