Bring Your Nothing to Jesus
Updated: Feb 24, 2022
by Gretchen Saffles
Crouching on the cold laminate floor, I sobbed as I looked at the strands of hair laced around my fingers. Months of starving myself had finally taken a toll on my health. Hiding in the bathroom of my college apartment, I never wanted to be seen again. Hot, salty tears rolled down my cheeks, pouring from a broken heart.
Just minutes before, my roommates had confronted me about my eating disorder. As I look back now, I can see that they were doing this out of love and compassion, but in the moment, it felt like a dagger directly to my heart.
I felt like a complete failure. It was as if my sin had been plastered on a movie screen for everyone to see and judge, and I didn’t think I would ever recover from the shame and embarrassment. Despair descended on my soul like a mighty cloud, and all I wanted to do was hide from the storm swirling in my heart. That day I built a wall of protection around myself—a wall to keep people from seeing how broken and bruised I really was.
There was only one way for that wall to come down: the wrecking ball of the gospel.
Growing Up a Good Girl Twelve years before my bathroom-floor breaking point, I walked down an aisle at the church my dad pastored in El Paso, Texas, to surrender my life to Jesus. My heart pounded in my chest as I grasped for the first time that I was a sinner in need of a Savior.
I went on my way attempting to live the “good girl” life. By the time I reached middle school, I knew how to talk the Christian talk and walk the Christian walk. I sought affirmation through achievement and tried to avoid punishment at all costs. My longing for perfection kept me in a cycle of shame and disappointment. When I was performing well, I felt good about myself, but when I messed up, my first thought was to run away and hide. In a way, hiding became my specialty.
A History of Hiding Hiding from sin isn’t anything new. It goes all the way back to the very beginning, when Adam and Eve sinned and hid from God. God summoned them from the darkness of hiding and exposed their fear—not for the purpose of shaming them but to draw them to surrender and freedom. As the narrative of Scripture unfolds, it reveals God’s plan of redemption—all of which points us to Jesus.
But what does all this mean for us today? For a teen crouching on the floor, weeping, consumed by an eating disorder? For a woman whose past convinces her she’s broken beyond repair. For a mom who feels like no one sees the things she does behind the scenes.
Redemption means everything! It’s every bit as meaningful to us today as it was to the first people who tried to hide in their brokenness. Christ came to save the hopeless, scarred, and tainted. By his shed blood, he removes our sin and shame and gives us new names and new identities.
The Grace Well There’s a woman in the New Testament whose story has been told for centuries. She’s known as the woman at the well, but I like to think of her as a dried-up woman who became a Well-Watered Woman after encountering Jesus at “the grace well.” She’s just like you and me: needy, broken, hiding, and in need of rescuing. And here’s the amazing part: Jesus met her in her ordinary, mundane life and changed the course of her future.
“Give me a drink,” Jesus said to her (John 4:7). She responded the way we often do—with excuses and her own unworthiness. Jesus told her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10). Living Water. It was exactly what she didn’t know she needed but had spent her whole life searching for—the quenching kind of hope, love, and peace that can only be found in him.
No Well Is Too Deep The woman responds to Jesus’ invitation with a practical problem: “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?” (John 4:11). The well is deep. Think about that for a moment. Don’t we say this same thing to Jesus?
Jesus, my past is too stained and messy for you to redeem.
If you knew what I’ve struggled with, you would have already given up on me.
My present is full of problems that are too big for you to handle.
I am full of fear and worry over the unknowns of the future.
We come to Jesus with our excuses and our assumptions that he can’t redeem our brokenness. But Jesus knows the truth. No well is too deep for him. No wall is too high for him. This is what Jesus came to give the woman at the well, and it’s what he came to give us, too.
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14). We can patch over our brokenness with worldly anecdotes, sayings, and quick fixes, but ultimately, it’s the gospel message that redeems, revives, and restores.
What happens next makes my jaw drop. Jesus called this woman out of hiding. When he told her to summon her husband, she said she had no husband. She had five previous husbands, and the man she was living with wasn’t her husband (see John 4:16-18). Jesus knew all this, and he still called her. She came with her guilt, and Christ met her with his grace.
Bring Your Nothing; Receive His Everything The grace well never runs dry, and it doesn’t come with stipulations. When Jesus called this woman to drink of the Living Water, he didn’t give her a to-do list or tell her to get her act together first. No, he invited her to bring her nothing and receive his everything. He reached his hand into the muddy pit she was in and lifted her up. He brought her out of hiding and into the glorious light of grace and freedom. Her dried-up life was transformed into a well-watered life that day, and my hunch is that she was never the same.
The truth is, at some point we all have bathroom-floor breaking points when we realize that we have nothing apart from Jesus. These moments are holy opportunities to bring our empty cups to him so we can be filled up with his grace upon amazing grace.
The Well-Watered Woman isn’t deterred by her nothing because she knows that in Jesus, she finds everything she’s been looking for all along.
Adapted from Chapter 3 of The Well-Watered Woman by Gretchen Saffles.