JESUS COMES WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT
THE WOMAN AT THE WELL AND PERSEVERING PRAYER
Based on John 4:1–45
“THE SON OF MAN is coming at an hour you do not expect,” Jesus said of his second coming (Luke 12:40). But Jesus showing up at unexpected times and places is a familiar pattern in his dealings with us in almost all areas of life. His reasons for this are mysterious and glorious, as the woman at the well in John 4 experienced.
Let’s imagine this Samaritan woman many years later as Photine, living in Rome and listening to a young friend, Clodia, expressing her discouragement in waiting on Jesus.
Photine sensed Clodia’s invisible burden. “What’s on your mind, dear?”
Photine looked around for the basket of pears and said, “Clodia, you know I won’t accept that response.” Spying the pears behind Clodia, she said, “And would you pass the pears, please?”
Clodia passed the basket. “OK, but I guess I’m telling the truth. Nothing is what I’m thinking about . . . as in nothing ever changes.”
Photine laughed. “Oh, when you get to be my age, dear, you’ll know that change is all that ever happens.”
“Except the things you really want to change,” muttered Clodia, dropping a handful of pistachios into a cloth bag.
Clodia was new to Rome, having recently moved from Carthage where she had become a Christian about six years earlier. The gracious, aged Photine had taken her under her wing. This morning they were preparing food for some of the sisters who had been jailed the previous week for sharing Jesus with a senator’s daughter. Clodia didn’t know all of Photine’s past.
“I’m listening,” Photine said, handing Clodia another bag.
“Jesus said if we ask the Father anything in his name he will give it to us,” said Clodia ( John 16:23). “And I’ve seen some answers to prayer. But I have so many things I desperately want him to change. I ask and ask and nothing seems to change. Some things have even gotten worse, not better.” She filled the bag. “I don’t understand it.”
The old woman put three pears in the last bag and handed it to Clodia. “You will, honey, once you learn that Jesus is coming.”
Clodia wasn’t inspired. “I know Jesus is going to come back someday. But I’d like him to answer some of my prayers before then.” In went the last fist of pistachios.
“I don’t simply mean Jesus’s return, dear,” replied Photine. “I mean that Jesus is coming in answer to every righteous request you make in his name.”
“What do you mean, he’s coming?”
“He promised that your prayers would be answered, didn’t he? Here, put those meal bags into this large sack. I’ll put away the food.” Photine groaned as she got up and stiffly carried the pear basket to the table. “You just need to learn to trust his timing.”
“But if he’s coming, why is he taking so long?”
“Sweetheart, he’s God. Some prayers he answers in a day, some in a decade, some in a thousand years. Just set the sack by door.” She came back for the bowl of pistachios. “Some prayers he answers after five marriages.”
Clodia set the sack down and looked back at Photine, shocked. “What? Five marriages?”
“Five,” answered the godly old woman, and she shook her head. “And after the fifth I stopped with the formalities.” Clodia looked stunned. “Yes, I was the Whore of Sychar, Clodia, a slave to my sin. I prayed many times that God would deliver me, and saw nothing change. I heard that Messiah was going to come someday, but I stopped hoping that he’d ever come for me. And then, one day, when I least expected him, there he was, waiting for me beside a well.”
Photine poured the nuts into the storage sack. “Many times since, he has come in answer to my prayers. But rarely when or how I expected him. Experience has taught me that his strange ways are always best, though. So don’t stop praying, dear. But don’t place your hope on time. Let Jesus mind the time, and you mind his faithfulness. He’s never yet broken a promise. He will answer you.”
God is not deaf to your groaning prayers, the ones that come from the core of your being (Rom. 8:26). He knows your deep longings, your desires for his kingdom to come, your yearnings to be “set free from [creation’s] bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (8:21). He is coming to fulfill every righteous desire be- yond your wildest imaginings.
But “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:40). His timing is often mysterious to us, but he knows what he’s doing. By employing the element of surprise in glorious purposes, he humbles human pride, catches Satan off guard (12:39), and, wonderfully, heightens our joy when the answers come.
So keep praying and cultivate patient, long-suffering faith. There will be a day when you find him unexpectedly at the well of your deepest thirst.
Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by Sight, Things Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife have five children and make their home in the Twin Cities.
Content taken from Things Not Seen by Jon Bloom, ©2015. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.