February 9, 1999
Lana (not her real name) is dying. The medication prescribed to treat a serious disorder has destroyed parts of her throat and esophagus. Soon she will be unable to eat. A tube will help for a time but the damage will eventually eat away her ability to breathe.
Lana gets angry at anyone who offers to pray for her. She is not interested in God or the gospel of hope for eternal life. Fiercely independent, her faith is in herself. Further, she wants to die as she has lived — her way, not anyone’s, not even God’s.
Her friends feel helpless. Whether or not she made choices that brought her to this, Lana’s own way is not working. Everyone sees it so clearly, except Lana. They want to help her but she doesn’t want any help. Those who know how to pray, pray anyway, without her permission. What else can they do?
Some say if prayer is against her wishes, it should not be offered. If Lana wants to turn her back on God, it is her choice. Do not interfere. Let her make her own decisions, even if they are not what we want. Others say the problem is not her stubbornness but that she just doesn’t understand how anyone can die with hope and in peace.
Regardless of our personal experiences with God, the Bible makes it clear that He does not give up easily. Lana may not be interested in God but God is interested in her. Even as she resists Him, He will not turn his back on her. God is like that. He even shows mercy on the least likely. In one example, Jesus stopped at a well during the heat of the day, long after the villagers had been there to draw water. A lone woman appeared on the path and when she got to the well, Jesus asked her to draw enough for Him to have a drink too.
This was an unusual encounter. In those days Jewish men did not talk with women, especially a woman by herself. Strike One. Second, she was a Samaritan. Samaritans were a half-Jew, half-pagan race hated by the Jews and banned from worshiping God with them. Strike Two. As Jesus talked with her, it came out that she had been ‘with many men and now lived with one who was not her husband.’ Strike Three. Why did Jesus break at least three social norms of His day and bother with her?
He had His reasons. Throughout the Gospels accounts of His life, He gave his attention to both men and women. He never once indicated any contempt or discriminated against a woman. He reflects the attitude of His heavenly Father who created both in His image and loves both without prejudice.
In the same vein, He had no prejudice against Samaritans. He knew the plan of God did not exclude anyone, regardless of their race or background and how or what they worshiped.
Third, Jesus was interested in sinners. In Matthew 9:13, He challenged people to learn what God meant by saying He wanted ‘mercy, and not sacrifice.’ He then said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
By this lone incident, the Lord reveals His merciful heart. The woman was surprised that He talked to her. She knew the norms. She was late coming to the well because she knew others looked down on her, yet Jesus did not. He persisted in the conversation until she understood who He was and that He could give her ‘living water,’ a euphemism for eternal life.
Lana’s friends who know God will persist in praying for her. They do it, not to push something on her, but because they have Christ in their lives. His merciful persistence is showing up in theirs. They also hope God will touch her life despite her resistance and the many strikes against her. They know as God does, that her thirst for life is greater than her thirst for independence. She needs that living water.