by David Sisler

In a confusing world, there is one thing most of us would say we understand. That is the difference between success and failure. A failure is someone who is poor, uneducated, ill-housed, and friendless. A success is someone who is rich, educated, well-housed, and has many friends. There is only one trouble: that is not God's definition of success or of failure.

By any definition, hers, yours, or mine, the woman was a failure. I wish we knew her name, but she is one of the anonymous people in the Bible. She came alone in the heat of the noon sun to draw water. She did not come during the morning social hour when everyone else came to the well. She came when she knew no one else would be there. She came when she could avoid the hateful stares and the cutting remarks of the other women.

Looking back on her life, she would have been unable to find any spark of morality, no matter whose standard she chose to use. She had been married five times. We do not know her motivation for those marriages.

Perhaps she was a forerunner of our modern society which changes marriage partners like they were changing socks.

Perhaps she had desperately sought happiness and was mentally and physically abused by the men she had married.

All we know for certain is that she finally gave up on marriage and moved in with man number six. Whatever the reason, her lifestyle had made her an outcast, so you can imagine her surprise when a man, with kindness, asked, "Would you draw water for me and give me a drink?"

I don't know if she ever learned His name, but we know it. His name is Jesus. The woman looked at Jesus, and said, "You are a Jew! You holier-than-thou Jews do not have any dealings with we who are Samaritans. You have a lot of nerve asking me to draw water for you to drink!"

Jesus said, "If you knew who I am, if you knew who was asking you for a drink, you would ask me instead to quench your thirst and I would give you living water."

You can argue the point if you wish, but I do not think the woman had any idea what Jesus was talking about. The only thing I think which mattered to her was the emptiness in her life, and on a deep, instinctive level, she knew Jesus could fill her. Until that moment, she may not have known how very empty she really was.

Then Jesus said, "Go call your husband."

You can almost see her begin to slink back. The thought ran through her mind, "Here it comes. He is no different from anyone else."

Out loud she said, "I don't have a husband."

The Bible says Jesus then told her everything she had ever done. It was not the details that He discussed, but by His words He revealed that He knew all about her, and with that knowledge, more intimate than any of her husbands', He still loved her.

Suddenly this woman forgot she was a failure. She was no longer preoccupied by the woman she had been, but by the woman she was going to be. No longer preoccupied by guilt over her past, she was overwhelmed by the forgiveness for her future.

Have you ever thought, "I know how she felt. I'm another week older. I'm another week emptier. I'm another week more frustrated. Why was I made to be a failure?"

You were not made to be a failure. The Bible says the man who is successful has had his sins forgiven and his guilt removed. Suppose this woman had dwelt on her past. She would have continued to live in loneliness and in failure. Instead she caught a glimpse of what the Apostle Paul would later write: "When the Lord has begun a good thing in you, He will see it through to perfection."

What did Paul mean? He meant that Jesus does not produce failures, only successes. If you are settling for failure in your life, you are not settling for Jesus.


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 6/11/94

Copyright 1994 by David Sisler

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