Everyone has regrets. We regret words we let fly in haste; the opportunities we missed or messed up; the relationships we let slip and the ones that we should never have begun. There are all those past actions for which ‘redemption’ seems impossible. Arthur Miller, the playwright, put it this way, ‘Maybe all one can do, is hope to end up with the right regrets.’
A woman at a well in Samaria whom Jesus encountered long ago, would have agreed. Like most of us, she longed for happiness, but happiness had eluded her. Five failed marriages testified to that. Hoping that love and marriage would give her life meaning and happiness, she had thought each new man was Mr. Right. But each time she made the same mistake. Her life was a mess. She felt insecure, lonely, and dissatisfied.
Jesus, we learn, was doing something unusual for a Jewish man: he was traveling through Samaria. We read about it in John 4:1-42. He transgressed social taboos – he was a Jew speaking with a Samaritan; and what’s more, he, a man, was having a private conversation with a woman in public. But clearly Jesus was not bothered by social custom. He spoke then, as he speaks to you and me today, with equal concern and equal respect.
Asking the woman for water, he gently directed her to the subject he wanted her to consider – the subject of living water. This gave him the opportunity to touch on the regrets in her life. Through this conversation we begin to see that Jesus offers us water of such vitality that it satisfies our deep inner spiritual thirst.
‘How does he do this?’ we ask. In his conversation with the woman that day, Jesus was anticipating the events of the first Good Friday, his death by crucifixion, which later writers went on to explain. So, Paul the Apostle, in his Letter to the Galatians tells us: Christ died for our sins (1:4). Jesus did not die simply to reveal God’s love for us. Rather he died to make the one, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for all our sins.
The New Testament is consistent and insistent that Jesus is the answer to the regrets and emptiness that gnaw our souls.
- Most of us aren’t willing to admit such a reality, and the woman that day was no exception. We pretend everything is all right, but truth be told, we all live a lot closer to despair than we like to think. We activate all kinds of defense mechanisms against anything that threatens to expose our inward spiritual poverty. Deep down we have a real spiritual longing. If we are going to find Jesus’ answer to our regrets we have to be willing to acknowledge our need and turn afresh to only one who can rescue us.
As the hymn-writer, William R. Newell put it:
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty, At Calvary.