Sometimes we can become so focused on where we wish God would work that we’re unable to see where He’s working all around us. We can become so fixated on trying to shove through a closed door, we miss a thousand other openings He’s prepared for us.
About five years ago, my husband and I decided to become more intentional with outreach. God had recently opened our eyes to some pretty deep hurts in our community—generational hurts often experienced by families attempting to navigate our world alone. Struggles we understood, because we’d been there. We’d been the couple with the failing marriage, the family with suffocating debt. The man and woman, husband and wife, mother and father who desperately wanted to do better, to live and love better, but felt powerless to change for any significant period of time.
Then one afternoon, a woman in our neighborhood invited me to church, and so I went. At first, I went alone, but soon, my husband joined me. We began to learn what life with Jesus—real life period!—could look like, and bit by bit, everything changed. He steadily, progressively broke the chains that bound us, healed our hurts, and purified and deepened our love for one another.
And we wanted everyone we knew to experience that same freedom, a freedom we knew could only come from a thriving relationship in Christ. We soon discovered, however, not everyone wanted that. Some people—the very people we felt led to reach out to, in fact, appeared unreceptive to our message and really anything other than surface level interactions. Yet, we persevered, for years, with zero results. I began to feel discouraged. I knew God had called us, as Christ followers, to share His truth. But how could we, when no one seemed interested in hearing it?
Our excitement started to fade, but then God began to shift our view. In the midst of that seemingly unfruitful year, He brought people into our circle—people looking for community, for support, and for truth. Honestly, it took me a while to shift my direction. In my stubborn fixation on how I was expecting God to work, I almost missed all the miracles He was inviting us to participate in.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus’s disciples seemed to struggle with a similar problem. They abandoned everything to follow Jesus on His eternal, life-saving mission, but He often took them places and to speak to people they never expected. A Canaanite woman with a demon-possessed daughter. Tax collectors, peasants, the lame, and the leper. And a five-times married Samaritan woman, someone Rabbis in their day would’ve gone great lengths to avoid.
But Jesus sought her out, spoke truth into her heart, and used her to reach her entire village. Those of you familiar with the hatred Jews felt for Samaritans, and Samaritan women especially, who were considered perpetually “unclean” can envision how shocking this must’ve been. I imagine their shock intensified, maybe even turning to disgust, when their respected teacher agreed to stay in that Samaritan village, eating off their dishes, sleeping in their homes, for two days.
Based on Christ’s words to His likely stunned disciples, this was not the ministry they’d been expecting. He said, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35, NIV).
It’s like He was saying, “Open your eyes to what God is doing all around you. Speak to those He’s already preparing. Those who are hungry for life change.”
I wonder if He’s saying the same to us. We should reach out to everyone, absolutely. But may we never become so fixated on how we expect or hope God to work that we miss a whole village anxious for truth.
Let’s talk about this. When has God opened your eyes to a ministry outlet you might’ve otherwise missed. What did God teach you through that? Did anything else stand out to you in today’s passage?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.
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Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.
As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she’s passionate about helping women experience Christ’s freedom in all areas of their lives. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE and make sure to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.