The sermon for this week illustrates what Jesus can do with the areas of repeated pain, shame, and brokenness in our lives. Pastor Dave did a great job illuminating the redeeming power of the woman at the well, found in John 4:1-42. The woman from our story had a history of 5 divorces, but really, this story is an analogy for anything that is an idol (something that takes the place of God) in our lives. Humans will fill up emptiness with anything within reach – even good things. Whether your pain is from 5 divorces, 5 drinks, 5 cigarettes, 5 lotto tickets, 5 Oreos, or 5 hours on the treadmill, the point is that when Christ comes in contact with our pain, He redeems it and uses it for our good and His glory.
In the counseling world, I use the phrase “divine appointment” frequently. Essentially, it means that while my work calendar is scheduled in advance, nothing I do can derail the plan of God, and if I’m supposed to interact with someone on a particular day, God will make it happen. I can “plan” my schedule, and God can adjust it accordingly. That’s what happened to the woman at the well. She had a divine appointment with Jesus, she just didn’t know it. She was living her life, going on about her business, carrying her pain around. Then, while completing a normal daily task, she had a divine appointment with her Redeemer. Jesus “had to go” (John 4:4) through Samaria when others would have avoided that route, and this woman, altogether.
We learned in the sermon that Jesus tells this hurting woman the truth about her need for Him and the truth about her sin. Initially, she lies to Jesus; she tries to avoid His question and her own shame. But notice her reply in verse 29 where she says “He told me everything I ever did”. And after her divine appointment with Christ, she rushes to tell other people. The way that I interpret this verse, there does not appear to be any shame or condemnation in her statement. Instead, there seems to be this joy! Christ didn’t confront her in a condemning way so she would hide in shame, He addressed her pain in such a way that gave her hope and joy, and made her want to tell others. This woman lied about her pain, tried to avoid talking about it, and then Jesus simply spoke the truth about her, her wound, and her future and her response is joy and telling others. His presence in her pain removed her shame.
The result of Christ addressing the most shameful thing in her life is that she was joyful and told others. Once she told others her story, the Bible tells us that many people believed (verse 39). Her pain and shame created an avenue for new believers. Yes her divorces were painful, yes they caused her shame, but after her divine appointment with Christ, there is such hope for her future! Psalm 18:28 tells us “...my God turns my darkness into light”, and we see that here, in this woman’s story. When Jesus came in contact with her pain, He redeemed it, and then He used it to help bring others to Him. Do you have a painful story that causes you shame? Do NOT believe the lie that Jesus can’t use you, He can and He will, if you let Him.
Just because we as humans don’t always know what to do with pain and shame doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t. Our humanity tells us to avoid painful things. But His presence in her pain removed her shame and opened up a road for others to connect with Christ. Maybe you haven’t been divorced 5 times; maybe something else has ensnared you. Whatever it is, take hope in this woman’s story – Christ sought her out, addressed her as a human being first, told her the truth about herself second, and then set her free – so free in fact, that she told others about Him. If you allow Jesus into these painful areas of your life, He can do the same for you ☺
- When Jesus first confronts the woman, she lies about her pain. She likely feels deeply ashamed. Despite her pain, shame, and avoidance Jesus boldly confronts her with the truth. Enabling a lie, whether it’s your lie or someone else’s lie, is (dare I say it) a sin. Enabling lies gets in the way of God’s work. Often God allows the consequences of our mistakes in order to bring us to Him. But if you, no matter how well-intentioned or “loving” you may be, are inserting yourself into that natural order, you are essentially saying “I know better than God” and you are actually putting that person at greater risk.
- I cannot place the exact quote, but it has been said that where there’s an excess of anything, there’s an emptiness of something. Take some time to consider where the excess is in your life. Then ask yourself if this excess is really an emptiness that you’re trying to fill with anything but Jesus.
- Is there someone in your life that you need to be boldly honest with? Maybe it’s even the person in the mirror. Take Christ’s example and speak truth.
- Divine appointments happen to all of us, we just typically aren’t aware of them. Sometimes divine appointments are for our safety – perhaps you took a last-minute phone call at work that held you over, and you left late – but had you left on time, you’d have been in that accident on the way home. Sometimes divine appointments are about God using you in the life of someone else. Whether it is to help with a flat tire, a kind word, or a financial contribution, divine appointments often look like inconveniences on the surface. Just because I experience it as an inconvenience, doesn’t mean that God can’t use it. Because of this woman’s divine appointment, others believed in Jesus.
- Reflect on your day – was there anything that felt like an inconvenience? Did you see any evidence of God in it?
- Remember, Jesus was tired when He got to Samaria; He’d been on a long journey. And truly, Jesus could have taken any route to get to Galilee, but He had a divine appointment with the woman in Samaria. The next time you’re inconvenienced, stop and consider: is this God providing for me and/or someone else?
- Even though thousands of years have passed, things aren’t that different in 2021 as compared to when Jesus walked the earth as a man. There was serious racism between the Samaritans and the Jews. And there was significant tension between the genders – single men did not speak to women they weren’t married to or related to in Jesus’ time, so Jesus was breaking both societal “rules” by simply speaking to the woman.
- Sometimes you have to break society’s rules to help someone. Culture tells you to be quiet, but Jesus tells you to be the light. “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:5). Who are the people in your sphere of influence – do you need to tell them the truth?
- Jesus came to this woman while she was living her regular life. She was living her life but she was dead inside – ever felt like that? You may not want to give Him an area of your life that is causing you pain, but know that while you hold so tightly to your pain and shame, there is no room left in your hand for His freedom.
- The woman asks Jesus for something she wants, something that would make her life more convenient, but instead, He gives her what she needs. We all do this – we come to Christ with a nice list of things we would like. Reflect on your past prayers – have you asked Jesus for something you wanted, but got something you needed instead? What does it mean about Christ’s love for you that He would give you what you needed?
Steps to Victory
- What are the areas of pain in your life that you lie about? That cause you shame? That you want to avoid? I know they are there because they are there for all of us. Take some time this week and consider your daily habits, what you spend your money on, what/where you notice yourself gravitating to after a long day at work, etc.
- When you read the above question about the shameful things in your life, something popped up in your mind. Maybe it’s a habit or behavior only you know about, but whatever it is, it’s causing you shame.
- This woman at the well would absolutely understand – the Creator of the universe asked her about her husband, and she definitely lied to Him – I identify with that. She was probably used to people shaming and criticizing her for her past, and she just didn’t want to hear it again.
- The first step in breaking the shame cycle is acknowledgment. Consider your habits/behaviors in a curious mindset, NOT from a critical mindset. Example: I wonder why I do this? I wonder where I learned this? I wonder what this does for me? Curiosity is key because we cannot change what we don’t acknowledge.
- What impact did this divine appointment have on the woman’s significant other? We don’t know. But we DO know that because of her pain, other people in her community came to Christ and believed.
- Chris Baker quoted Acts 2:2 at the beginning of the service this weekend, and from that verse, we learn that the Holy Spirit has a visual and audible presence. This woman at the well had a divine appointment with Christ, and from that moment on, she was different. She went from lying and avoiding her pain, to literally telling others about what Christ had done!
- Where is there evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life? If you’re having trouble identifying areas where you see the Holy Spirit at work, be specific in your prayers and invite the Holy Spirit into your day.
- Forgiveness. This is such a touchy word for folks, often because they have been taught incorrect things about the meaning of the word itself. Among other things, forgiveness is NOT agreeing with bad behavior, forgiveness is NOT an invitation back into your life (when it’s not safe/healthy to do so), and forgiveness is most certainly not forgetting. We have human brains that do not forget, so requiring that of yourself is like asking yourself not to be human.
- Forgiveness is found towards the end of the grief process, in what’s considered the acceptance phase. So if you haven’t moved through the first four stages of grief, do not expect yourself to jump right to forgiveness. You can’t get from Oakland to Accident without going through McHenry.
- I hear folks ask “what do I do when my mind brings it up again” and, assuming there are no other mental health concerns, the only answer is this: a painful thought must be followed by a powerful prayer. As many times as you think it, you need to give it to God in prayer.
- Have you been struggling with a divorce? Perhaps it is something that happened decades ago, or perhaps it’s happening right now. Remember what Pastor Dave said, God hates divorce NOT the divorced. Both you and your spouse are loved.
- You must grieve. There is no escaping this process. Think of divorce like a backpack you’re carrying around, and without the grief process, you’re simply carrying that backpack with you into every area of your life. This grief process includes forgiveness of others and yourself.
- Remember how Jesus used the woman with her history of 5 divorces – He has the power to both heal you and use your pain and shame for the good of others. Do not believe the lie that divorce is some type of irreparable sin. You and your story are valuable.
- Do not tell your children – small or tall – about your divorce. The children of divorce have a right to just be children. The children have a parental relationship with you and your spouse, and even if they are 52, why mom and dad got divorced is none of their business. It IS painful when children don’t have all the information and fill in the blanks and even take sides, but it is more damaging to them to expect them to understand adult things.
- Do you discipline your children for things you do to your spouse? Screaming, cursing slamming doors, throwing things, etc. A great barometer is to think to yourself 'would I discipline my child for this behavior?' If the answer is yes, ask God and your spouse for forgiveness, and then do the hard work of figuring out where that unhealthy communication pattern comes from.
- PSA: divorce goggles are REAL. Drugs, alcohol, and divorce (really, any type of loss) all mess with the decision-making part of your brain. Please avoid the real temptation to jump into a new connection. General rule: if it’s been less than a year, steer clear.
-Lisa Lewis, LCPC