On another level, these seven phrases only give us hints and brief glimpses of a life-altering encounter. We know intuitively as we read this story that something much deeper is happening. This encounter is much more than the well and the water jar at the center of the story. This story is too profound for mere words to fully capture: a truth we need lives in this story!
We meet a woman who had been put out by five husbands. She is living with a man who did not respect her enough to marry her. She had come to the well in the scorching heat of the day by herself. She had no friends for conversation. There was no banter to soften her hard life or lighten her load. The demand for water made her regular trips to the well necessary. The time when she went there always reminded her that she was unwanted. She wouldn't go when the "decent" women of the village were there to ridicule her or "politely" whispered behind her back just loud enough for her to hear.
Life for her was predictable at best.
Doing the predictable grind all over again.
Then one day, a divine interruption she never expected startled her out of her self-imposed emotional slumber.
"Will you give me a drink?" (John 4:7) Jesus had asked her. What seemed like a simple enough question was full of dangerously thorny issues:
- What was a Jew doing at this well — didn't they all go between Judea and Galilee by traveling along the Jordan?
- Why would a Jew ask a Samaritan for a drink — didn't Jews and Samaritans avoid conversation and certainly refused to share drinking and eating utensils?
- Why would a Jewish Rabbi, a man, talk to a woman in public?
- What was this Jewish Rabbi after — for why would a man pay attention to her if he wasn't after something?
Jesus' response was intriguing:
If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water (John 4:10).
"I doubt it," the woman told Jesus.
O, you didn't see that exact phrase in the Bible text (John 4:1-30)? The unnamed woman asked a follow-up series of questions that made her doubt very clear. At the same time, her questions hinted to Jesus of her longing for something that her current life could not provide her.
Just as much as Nicodemus had needed a fresh start at life (John 3:3-7), so also did this woman. As opposite as the two were, their deepest need was the same. Both needed Jesus to help them start over with the help of God's Spirit — the living water only Jesus could provide (John 7:37-39).
There are all kinds of doubt.
Angry doubt: God, why did you let this happen to me?
Questioning doubt: God, where are you in all of this?
Desperation beyond doubt: I'm not sure how much longer I can hold on — God, when are you coming to rescue me?
Hopeless doubt: God, you probably don't want to do anything to help me, do you?
We all have doubts. Nearly all of us have doubts about God. While this woman had a very real question about how to worship God, her doubt kept her faith questions stuck on hold. Then Jesus showed up.
Unfortunately, many of us who get stuck in this last kind of doubt — God you probably don't want to do anything to help me, do you? Stuck in our doubt, we never notice Jesus at our "well." We never acknowledge his first efforts to reach out and connect with us.
We hear stuff about Jesus and his being near. We dismiss it by telling ourselves, "I doubt it!"
"I hate all this religious pretentiousness."
"These religious snobs look down on me."
"I'm sick of the hypocrisy."
"I'm sick of all the religious talk."
"I'm sick of even thinking about it!"
"I doubt it!"
What hope do we have of meeting Jesus right where we are?
Will we pause and listen for his request to step into our lives?
"Will you give me a drink?" Jesus asks us.
But underneath, there is the same promise Jesus made to her that he makes to us:
"Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:13-14).
So, before we say, "I doubt it!" again for the thousandth time, let's pause. Let's pause in the middle of our weary, lonely, scorching hot, brutally agonizing, thoroughly predictable and bone-wearying trip to do what is necessary for our daily grind. Let's pause and ask Jesus, "Please, give me some of this water of yours so I can quit this awful life of reruns stuck in futility. Please, give me some of your water so I can get rid of my loneliness, my feelings of rejection, and my monotonous trips through the same old routines without hope."
How do I find you at my "well," Lord?
How do I hear your invitation to drink of your water?
How do I meet you in the middle of the monotony of my life?
Jesus' answer is the same words the woman used to invite her friends to meet Jesus: "Come, see...!" (John 4:29; John 1:39).
I can't answer all the questions of your doubt. No one can. But, I can ask you in the middle of your difficult trips to your "well" of frustration, loneliness, hopelessness, rejection and doubt to listen for Jesus... right there in the middle of doing what you do every day... right in the middle of your messes... right in the middle of the messes folks have dumped upon you.
Listen for Jesus' voice.
It may not come in the way you expect it. It may even come as a simple request. But like this woman who had her question about where to worship that she couldn't get answered (John 4:19-20), Jesus will come. When he does, the questions will not matter nearly as much as his presence at your "well," his promise to slake your thirst, and the purpose he gives back to your life.
That's what he did for this unnamed woman. That is what he longs to do for you.
So, listen for his voice in the middle of the routine, your "well." He met the woman there. He longs to join you at your "well," too.
One way to listen for Jesus' voice is to begin a time each day when you read one chapter out of the Gospel of John in the New Testament. Make this simple and repeatable, so just read a new chapter each day listening for Jesus' voice. As you do, ask God to help you know what Jesus wants you to know, feel what Jesus wants you to feel based on what you've read, and to do what Jesus wants you to do. Then when you've finished John, read Luke... then Mark... and then finally Matthew.