Most people older than ten have faced some sort of tragedy. Some of us experienced horror younger than that.
- A car accident or house fire
- The death of a loved one
- Parental divorce
- Abuse, neglect, or abandonment
The list of bad things goes on and on. Yet we know that God redeems. The Bible tells us in Isaiah 61:3 that He exchanges beauty for ashes, or as the Contemporary English Version writes,
The Lord has sent me to comfort those who mourn, especially in Jerusalem. He sent me to give them flowers in place of their sorrow, olive oil in place of tears, and joyous praise in place of broken hearts.
But how do we get from broken hearts to joyous praise?
An Ordinary Woman
Sometimes I read the Bible and put the hero in the story on a pedestal. Oh, I know each of them was like me. They weren’t perfect, and they struggled with fear and doubt. Some carried the responsibility of spouse and children, while others moved through life on their own. All of them needed a place to sleep at night safe from the weather, wild animals, and men bent on evil.
But Peter walked on water. Noah spent weeks building a great boat in the desert. Moses packed up and moved around regularly with a huge entourage — can you even imagine trying to organize hundreds of thousands of whiny, stubborn people?
I’m just, well … I’m just Carrie. I’m ordinary. I have days I don’t want to cook and weeks I get behind on the laundry. I kill the plants I try to care for, and for the life of me I can’t get the weed whacker to work.
And I don’t like to talk about my scars, but they are there too. Moments of tragedy. Heart-breaking difficulties. Painful seasons I’d never want to walk through again.
Another Ordinary Woman
The Gospel of John tells the story of Jesus encountering an ordinary woman.
It was noon, and after Jesus’ disciples had gone into town to buy some food, a Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well (John 4:7-8).
A woman going about her day, getting water for her household. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about her responsibilities, but we can imagine she had dishes to wash, meals to prepare, and clothes to clean. Just like us.
And this ordinary woman carried scars.
Jesus told her, “Go and bring your husband.”
The woman answered, “I don’t have a husband.”
“That’s right,” Jesus replied, “you’re telling the truth. You don’t have a husband. You have already been married five times, and the man you are now living with isn’t your husband” (John 4:16-18).
Five husbands. It doesn’t matter whether she was widowed or divorced, whether she liked these men or the marriages were arranged. Can you imagine the pain this woman carried with her? Five marriages. Over.
The End of the Story
But her story doesn’t end there. It never does when we allow God to get involved.
The woman left her water jar and ran back into town. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! Could he be the Messiah?” Everyone in town went out to see Jesus (John 4:28-29).
Did you catch that? Everyone in town went out to see Jesus. Everyone.
And still, God worked.
A lot of Samaritans in that town put their faith in Jesus because the woman had said, “This man told me everything I have ever done.” They came and asked him to stay in their town, and he stayed on for two days (John 4:39-40).
Sounds pretty good, right? And still, God worked.
Many more Samaritans put their faith in Jesus because of what they heard him say. They told the woman, “We no longer have faith in Jesus just because of what you told us. We have heard him ourselves, and we are certain that he is the Savior of the world!” (John 4:41-42).
Certain that He is the Savior. Wow!
But She Was Just Ordinary
Many Samaritans in that town were saved simply because an ordinary, broken-hearted woman spoke.
Oh, that’s scary — if you focus on the end of that sentence rather than the beginning.
It’s scary to tell you about times I’ve messed up. About the pain I’ve walked through. About the tragedy that’s hit my life. It’s scary to speak from my pain.
But many of you have taken the time to tell me the difference it made in your life. How God spoke to you. How your focus shifted more to Jesus.
From Broken-Hearted to Joyous Praise
God uses ordinary, broken-hearted people to bring about amazing results. Joyous, praiseworthy results.
- I haven’t walked on water, but I’ve walked among the clouds when God used my words to turn a woman’s heart more toward her husband.
- I haven’t built a great boat, but I’ve watched God use my words to lay a foundation for great relationships.
- I haven’t organized hundreds of thousands, but I’ve allowed God to use my experience of regular moving to benefit those who must also tackle the nomadic military life.
The Samaritan woman was ordinary, but she affected great change. She was broken-hearted, but she bared her pain, inspiring others to seek out the One who loved her.
I’m just as ordinary, but I’m willing to allow God to do the same through me. I’m just as broken, but know the same miracle worker she knew.
What about you? Can you step forward in faith, speaking out what God has done for you?