A Thirsty Soul

We have spent the last two weeks exploring Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well (John 4) and celebrating our very personal God. We cannot step into His blessings and promises without knowing Him. Yet our God repeatedly intervenes along life’s paths to make Himself known, watching to see if we will respond in faith to the encounter. Today, Juliet Sharrow shares her story of pain and God’s intervening love. May her story move you to trust and follow the One who gives life.

A Thirsty Soul by Juliet Sharrow

Juliet Sharrow

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”  Jeremiah 2:13

I have been the woman at the well.  I’d wager you have too. We’ve all had times, whether we want to admit it or not, when we’ve felt like her . . . unworthy, like an outcast, wearing our shame and guilt like a scarlet letter. In those times we try to avoid people, carefully evading their judgment and “knowing glances”.  Yet all the while we’re dying inside, our parched souls crying out for satisfaction but finding none.

My quest to satisfy my thirsty soul began at a young age. My Grandparents wanted my mother to have an abortion.  I was an unplanned child to an 18-year-old unwed mother.  And my young father was not ready for the responsibilities of a wife and child.  From these beginnings came a little girl who felt unloved and rejected from as far back as she can remember.

I grew up without my father; I never even knew his name. I was raised by a wounded mother who was unable to love and a stepfather who was cold and abusive. The words “I love you” were never spoken in our home and hugs were rare.  My stepfather only spoke to me when I did something wrong.  I was not praised or told I did anything right, and I was never told I was beautiful, like every girl dreams of hearing from her daddy.

I was an only child, so everything that happened was somehow my fault. With no one else to blame, my stepfather took all his frustrations out on me. And my mother was too weak, too broken herself, to protect me. I learned at an early age that love has to be earned and that love can be taken back at a moment’s notice. This left me hurting and searching. Searching for love anywhere I could get it. And so began my unquenchable thirst.

My childhood environment taught me this: I was not good enough, was not accepted, and was not loved.  I knew there must be something wrong with me that no one wanted me and no one loved me. I believed I was ugly and unlovable, that no one could EVER love me.

From a young age I went to church with anyone who would take me, mostly to get out of the house and away from my parents.  And when I was old enough to understand about hell, I decided I didn’t want to go there, so I prayed the sinner’s prayer.

But I didn’t understand what accepting Jesus as my Savior really meant.  Once again, I saw rules that had to be followed, and punishment for those that sinned.  I thought God was waiting to punish me every time I did something wrong.  I never felt love from God and I certainly never understood how to love Him back.  He was too distant, and I was too afraid of failing Him along with everyone else.  It never occurred to me that this God might be able to satisfy my thirst.

I thought if He really loved me He would have given me different parents, or He would have sent my real dad in to rescue me.  Have you ever wished you could live someone else’s life? But my real father never came, and things at home only got worse.  I just knew there was no way this perfect God could really love me. I was unlovable. And so my insatiable thirst only grew.

Nothing I did filled the void inside, nothing made me feel loved and accepted.  I hated myself so much, and my relationship with my stepfather had gotten so bad, that as a teenager, every day I wished I was dead.  I would sit on my bed and tell my mom how much I wanted to die.  It consumed my thoughts.  I saw myself as a failure and thought my life was not worth living, but I never got up the nerve to commit suicide.

Not until I was 21.  By this time, my life had spiraled into such a deep pit, I saw no way out.

At first my spiral downward had been exciting, even intoxicating.  I tried to satisfy my thirsty soul with all manner of evils, but the more I gave myself away, the thirstier I got, and I died a little more inside each day. I couldn’t live with the shame and guilt I was carrying around, couldn’t live with the horrible choices I had made.  I could not live with myself.

I knew in my heart that no one would miss me. I believed I was doing everyone a favor, and this would finally make the pain go away. So I took a bunch of pills and went to sleep knowing it was finally over.

But God had other plans for me. He sent paramedics to break down my door and save me from myself. As I lay there in and out of consciousness, I heard singing! Just one voice, a man, so tender and sweet, singing, “I will always love you, I will always love you, I will always love you, yes I will!”

I experienced the blessing of Zephaniah 3:17 that day,

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

God wasn’t so distant after all. In fact, I discovered He goes out of His way to meet us where we are. Just like Jesus went to Samaria to rescue a woman at a well, He pursues each one of us. And He came to me in my darkest hour. As I lay dying, He sang His love over me and carried me back to the land of the living.

I should have died that day. The doctors did not understand how I made it, but I did. A loving God had intersected my path to show me that I was worth loving. Unfortunately, I wasn’t yet ready to believe Him.

Visit us next week to read the rest of Juliet’s story!

A Stranger to the Groom

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”   Mark 12:29-30

My life changed forever in response to these four words, spoken by God through the pages of a Bible study fourteen years ago. “Do you love Jesus?”

I still remember the moment clearly. I knew the right answer, and I lifted my pen to fill the blank awaiting my ink on the page. But God had other plans for me that day. His Spirit intervened, lifting a veil of deception that enshrouded my heart, and allowed me to see what He saw. I did not love Him. I can tell you with all sincerity, the news shocked me. I recall my hand trembling as I moved it to write the only answer I’d become capable of putting down. No.

For twenty-six years, I had attended church and tried to live what I understood to be a godly life. And to be honest, I was miserable. The consistent, nagging ache within my heart wouldn’t leave. I tried to fill it with my husband’s love, but although we were happily married, I had no peace. I found myself frustrated with God, questioning Christianity, and doubting whether Jesus was even real.

Where was this Prince of Peace? Was Christ’s invitation to abundant life and surpassing joy merely the stuff of fairy tales?

That day as Jesus confronted me in my living room, I discovered the source of my struggle. I didn’t love the Savior of my soul. In fact, until that day, I’d never even met Him. I had called Him Lord with my mouth, but I had never trusted Him with my heart. Jesus warns about that kind of hypocrisy in Mark 7:6,

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”

Growing up in a Christian home, I had heard lots of wonderful stories about Jesus. Many times I sat in a church pew enthralled by marvelous tales of faith and God’s intervention. Unfortunately, I allowed those stories to remain the extent of my knowledge of God. I never pursued Jesus for myself and allowed Him to make Himself real to me. I applauded others for their relationship with Jesus, but never set out on my own. I was willing to give Him my Sunday mornings—well, at least most of them—but I wasn’t willing to trust Him with anything else.

I spent 26 years attending church and almost missed knowing Jesus. And when you miss Jesus, dear one, you miss everything.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”  Matthew 7:21-23

Jesus offers a chilling prophecy in Matthew 7. When He returns to claim His throne and summon His bride to Himself, there will be many people shocked to find the door to the wedding feast closed to them.

Jesus doesn’t refer to those who blatantly rejected Him here. These are not those who refused to believe that Jesus was who He said He was. On the contrary, these people serve in His name! They fully expect that when He returns He will welcome them with open arms. Yet when they try to enter eternity with Him, He will tell them plainly, “I never knew you.”

Beloved, you and I cannot enter eternal rest without knowing and being known by Jesus. Nothing less than intimacy will do. We can know all about Him, attend church and even quote Scripture (John 5:39-40), but if we don’t personally know and love the One we profess to believe, we worship in vain.

My heart is so tender toward you as I type these words. A stark reality rises to my thoughts as I consider these truths. You see, had Jesus not intervened in my life that day, presenting Himself to me in Bible study and unveiling my deceptions, I would have been counted among those rejected by Jesus at His return. I knew about Him but I did not know Him, and I did not seek out His will for my life (Matthew 7:21, 23).

I had tried to earn His favor and blessing by doing what I thought was expected of me. I even labeled it salvation by grace because that’s what the Bible and my church preached. Sadly, I worshiped in vain. I had offered up works and called it faith. That’s why I didn’t experience the fruit of my salvation promised to me in Scripture. What He asked of me—what He asks of you—is devotion. He invites us to trust Him with our hearts, with our very lives. What He really wants is you and me.

How grateful I am that our loving God pursues! He could have left me wallowing in my works. After all, I had chosen them. But like He did for a broken woman at a Samaritan well, Jesus intersected my path, showed me who He is and offered me an opportunity to make a different choice. And that afternoon in my living room, face to face with the Lord of Glory, I did choose. I chose to believe Jesus is worth loving, that I could take this risk and offer Him my heart. I confessed my sin through cleansing tears, and asked Him to teach me to love Him. I didn’t know how. It didn’t matter. All that mattered that day was that I wanted to. Jesus promises to do the rest.

“The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts . . . so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.”  Deuteronomy 30:6

Jesus Gets Personal

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3

I grew up in church and almost missed knowing Jesus. Yet Scripture reveals and important truth associated with our salvation. It begins with a personal encounter with the Living God. Beloved, do you know the One you claim to have believed?

In the fourth chapter of John, we find the story of a broken woman who came face to face with her Savior.  Bearing the shame of both past and present sin, she would walk to the public well for her water in the heat of the day, avoiding the humiliation of accusing eyes and snickering tones.  Somehow the sun’s scorching rays can feel less damaging than society’s judgment. This particular day, however, she did not make it to the well unseen. She discovered someone waiting there, a stranger in need of a drink.  That stranger was Jesus.

He initiated conversation with her, “Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:7)  She could not conceal her surprise that He would even speak to her.  Recognizing He was a Jew and knowing the animosity that existed between their people, she would have expected Him to ignore a Samaritan, much less a Samaritan woman.  Yet this stranger didn’t ignore her. He actually seemed interested in knowing her story.  He even mentioned a gift.

“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

Then He got personal.

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” Verse 16

Something about Him made her open up just a bit. To her astonishment she discovered He already knew her completely!

  “I have no husband,” she replied.  Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.  What you have just said is quite true.” John 4:17-18

She had admitted a tiny piece of her shame: she was unmarried. But in the light of His presence, the true depth of her sin was revealed.  There she stood, fully exposed, probably bracing herself for judgment, yet it never came. Instead she felt the touch of something altogether different. Grace began to infiltrate her senses as she recognized that this revelation of her sordid past came free of its usual weighty shame.  A light began to dawn in her heart, and she realized that this One who had sought her out was something special. As their conversation turned toward the Messiah who had been foretold, Jesus revealed Himself fully to her with the words,

“I who speak to you am he.” John 4:26

Face to face with her Messiah, she found herself confronted by her personal truth, and the collision of grace and truth found only in Jesus Christ produced in her the only response that could save her:  she believed.

Do you think Jesus will be any less personal with us?  Just as He divinely appointed a meeting between Himself and a broken woman thirsting for something she couldn’t define, He sits in wait for us to interact with Him at appointed stops along the pathways of our own lives.  He will stir up questions in the depths of our hearts to turn our attention toward Him and move us to respond to Him, but very often either the shame we carry or simply the busyness of our lives keep us from turning our gaze to see who it is that beckons us to answer Him.  As our Samaritan woman found, responding to Jesus’ personal invitation reveals truth that can set us free (John 8:32)!  What happened next?

 “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 Christ?” John 4:28-29

Remarkable, isn’t it, that this woman, who bore so much shame she went out of her way to avoid the people of the town, felt the touch of Jesus’ grace so powerfully that she ran shamelessly to the very people who scorned her?  That’s what an authentic encounter with Christ produces.  Liberation and transformation!  Grace frees and heals, and we always come away changed.  But her salvation didn’t end with her own story.  Many in the town also believed because of her testimony as she became a witness for Jesus, inviting them to come and see Him for themselves.  And…

 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”  40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.  41 And because of his words many more became believers.

 42They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”   (John 4:30,39- 42)

Let’s not miss a vital element to our story found in verse 30:  they came out of the town and made their way toward him.   Notice that those who believed had to approach Jesus themselves.  It was not enough for the people of her town to hear her testimony of Jesus.  Hearing was the catalyst that propelled them on their own journey toward the Messiah, but their salvation didn’t come through her testimony.  It came when, struck by the power of her testimony, they made the journey toward Jesus themselves.  They got personal with Him, and when they did, He revealed Himself to them as well, and many moved from the realm of doubt to certainty, “…now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Have you had your encounter with Jesus, dear one? Are you basing your faith on someone else’s testimony, or have you allowed Him to give you your own? Maybe you’ve heard things about Jesus that have produced a stirring in your heart to believe. Run to meet Him, dear one, that your faith may be complete. He waits to offer you a drink.

An Encounter with Glory

“Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.  Mark 15:32

At times I have difficulty grasping the love of God. As I consider the road to Calvary, emotion overwhelms me. I picture my Jesus anguishing on His knees in Gethsemane, sweating drops of blood. I see fists pounding His flesh, a thorny crown beaten into His head, lashes repeatedly stripping skin and bloody tissue from His back.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.  Isaiah 53:7

While His own people spit at Him and mocked Him, Jesus silently bore the weight of a cross—a punishment due us but not He who carried it—and stumbled up the hill to Calvary. There, angry soldiers pounded nails into His hands and feet, pinning Him to that cross. The ground beneath Him stained crimson by the blood of earth’s Creator, at last Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

It might be easy for us to blame the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, but the truth is, you and I put Jesus there as much as they did. Our sin nailed Him to that cross.

These words from Sidewalk Prophets’ song You Love Me Anyway pierce my heart each time I hear them.

I am the thorn in Your crown, but You love me anyway

I am the sweat from Your brow, but You love me anyway

I am the nail in Your wrist, but You love me anyway

I am Judas' kiss, but You love me anyway

. . . I am the man that called out from the crowd

For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground

Yes then, I turned away with this smile on my face

With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace

And then alone in the night, I still called out for You

So ashamed of my life . . .

But You love me anyway

I am a blessed recipient of that grace, of that incomprehensible love. For 26 years I rejected my Lord and King, yet still He welcomed me with open arms the instant I opened my heart. Words cannot express my gratitude over His pursuit of this prodigal. He intersected my life, pierced my blindness with His glorious truth, and inscribed His Name upon my heart. In light of His revelation, I had nothing to offer Him but myself, and He gladly received me. Only later did I realize that “me” is all He ever truly wanted.

History records another recipient of grace whose life—and death—offers irrefutable hope of redemption through faith in the Son of God. The story of the crucified thief who joined Jesus in paradise unravels any theory that Jesus welcomes us based on the good we’ve done. Even the thief declared,

“We are punished justly for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man [Jesus] has done nothing wrong.”  Luke 23:41

I’d like to shift our focus to his next words, however.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Luke 23:42

Perhaps you have never considered this thought before: How did he know? How did he know that Jesus would, indeed, come into a kingdom? His eyes witnessed the same things Jesus’ Disciples saw that sent them running in fear and believing it was over. Jesus hung battered and broken, struggling for His next breath and nearing His last. Death hung immanently, yet the thief knew that Jesus would one day reign as King, and he entrusted his life to His care. How did he know what even the Disciples could not yet understand?

I’d like to suggest that our friend the thief had an encounter with glory. God sent His Spirit to open his eyes and enable him to see. In John 6:65, Jesus said,

“. . . I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

Our opening Scripture today reveals that as our thief first hung on the cross beside Jesus, he did not recognize Him as the Son of God. He joined the crowd and the other thief hurling insults at the King of Kings.

Jesus performed no visible miracle from the cross to change his opinion. He only heard His fervent prayers to the Father and listened to Jesus speak of forgiveness. But as the thief heard the words of Christ, God pierced his darkness with the light of truth, allowing a once blind man to see that Jesus was everything He claimed to be. He suddenly knew that death would not hold this King of the Jews. And with a repentant heart, our thief emerged alone from the crowd in defense of Jesus, abandoning the hateful mockers to proclaim His coming kingdom. All doubt erased, this man stood certain of what his earthly eyes could not see.

“ . . . blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  John 20:29


Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”  Luke 23:43

Have you had your encounter with glory, dear one? Do you know beyond reason and doubt that Jesus’ kingdom is coming? Or are you still trying to convince yourself based on what others have told you?

You can know, beloved. Jesus longs to reveal Himself to you, to invade your darkness with His truth-baring light. All He requires of you is a seeking heart. He’ll do the rest.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 29:13-14

The forgiven thief possessed the only thing he needed to draw God to Him that day. He had a repentant heart that sought the truth, so God faithfully showed up to reveal it in time for him to enter into paradise. Then our thief made the choice to believe. How like our Lord to come after the one lost lamb and carry him safely into the fold!

And what of the rest of the mob?  Some people just like the darkness (John 3:19). The others simply didn’t care.