Jesus answered her, “If [only] 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.”
-Jesus to the woman at the well
If only we’d have known how faithful God is, would we have done things differently? Think about it: If we knew God in His truest essence from the day we were born, wouldn’t we be in a completely different place than we are now?
Would you have made the same decisions? These are provoking thoughts. The what-ifs tend to pile up and the if-onlys begin to take shape. “If only I had waited.” “If only I had done something.” “If only I could’ve known what would happen.”
Eleven disciples knew how to walk on the water, but only one actually did it. Ten disciples knew not to abandon Jesus during His final hours, but only one didn’t. Sure, we know how to live spiritual lives, we know how to keep from sinning – really, we do. James is even big on this point: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19).
A very wise friend of mine once told me that if we really believed that Jesus died for us, and cut us loose from the chains of sin, we wouldn’t sin anymore. If we really believe that God is faithful to fulfill all of our needs, we would not have any problems with petty temptations. The truth is, Christians, we don’t always believe. We sin due to disbelief that God has something better for us! (In essence, we will continue to sin as long as we are in the flesh.)
God has provided the paved road, but we prefer the path with potholes.
Jesus has cut our chains, but we prefer to stay in the cellar.
All of this because of our disbelief.
A reason for our reoccurring disbelief in God is our pasts. We see how far we’ve fallen, and we talk ourselves into thinking that it’s going to happen again. Like the old saying goes, “It happened once, it’ll happen again.” And that becomes the standard that we live by.
Think about the instances that changed your life over time. Were they mediocre occurrences that happen every day, but one day just clicked? Or are they more extreme? What tips your mind to start getting you to think differently? What places your heart in the chambers of the divine? A lost child? a death? an illness? an early pregnancy? What does it for you?
For the woman at the well, it was a thirsty messiah. She saw that He was not the One in need – but rather, she was. The woman was in need of clarity, as well as compassion. But she was still a little uncertain, and perhaps a little frightened. “If only 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” (emphasis added).
There it is: If only.
The terrible two.
This is not a phrase that contains enough space for hope like what if does. This is a phrase that can only reflect and regret. And what’s worse yet, Jesus is saying this! Why is Jesus using such a phrase with someone who is in such need of redemption? What’s going on here?
“If only” are no words I want to hear from Jesus – ever. But you know what? I think if only comes with a territory of being a Christian. The Bible is filled with if onlys.
If only Moses hadn’t talked back to God.
If only Jonah had obeyed God the first time.
If only David hadn’t lusted.
If only Paul didn’t murder.
If only the thief on His right could see.
But without those if onlys, we would be left with a very skinny Bible. We would be left with very few lessons to be learned, and very little examples of God’s love and patience for mankind.
I wonder if the woman at the well would have seen Jesus for who He was if she was a “righteous” woman.
If she had remained married to the same man for a number of years, would she have even met Jesus? Remember that it was her shame that forced her to fetch water during the heat of the day in the first place. And if not for her mistakes, she would have no shame, therefore she would not have met Jesus at that divine moment in time.