Early in Christ’s ministry, He traveled from Jerusalem to His boyhood home of Nazareth, in Galilee. He passed through Samaria and, weary from His journey, stopped to rest at Jacob’s ancient well. As Jesus waited and His disciples sought food in a nearby town, a Samaritan woman approached the well. You know the story. When Jesus asked for a drink, she was surprised that a Jew would make such a request of her. For centuries Jews and Samaritans had considered themselves enemies. But Christ told her that if she understood whom it was she was talking to, she would ask Him for water—living water, water that would satisfy her thirst forever. She didn’t understand, of course, and so He explained:
“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13–14).
The Samaritan woman liked the idea of never having to drink again. Certainly, she wouldn’t miss the daily labor of carrying the heavy water jars from the well to her home. But when Christ testified to her that He was the Messiah and when the Spirit confirmed to her that it was true, she began to comprehend that Jesus was speaking of greater truths. She left the well water behind and hurried away to seek others who might come and listen. I doubt, however, at least at that point, that she fully understood—or whether we fully understand—what it means to have a wellspring of living water within us.
Living water heals. It nourishes and sustains. It brings peace and joy.
A woman I know was struggling with anger toward someone who had hurt her and her family. Though she told her children not to become embittered and resentful, she fought those feelings herself. After weeks of entreating her Father in Heaven, she finally felt a change. She related: “One day, in the midst of my nearly constant prayers, the healing came. I felt a physical sensation spread through my body. After, I felt a sense of security and peace. I knew that regardless of what happened, my family and I would be all right. The anger left me and so did my desire for retaliation.”
The living water is the gospel of Jesus Christ; its communicator is the Holy Ghost. My friend knew what was right. She had said the appropriate words to her family. But only when she humbled herself enough to drink of the water—to feel the Holy Spirit—could she begin to heal.
As I have met with many women this last year—and their priesthood leaders—I have heard numerous accounts of Christ’s healing power. There is so much suffering in mortality, so many causes for pain. I know people who have sent loved ones into harm’s way and who daily pray for their safety in battle. I talk to parents who are frightened for their children, aware of the temptations they face. I have dear friends who are suffering from the ravaging effects of chemotherapy. I know single parents, abandoned by spouses, who are rearing children alone. I have dealt myself with the debilitating effects of depression. But I have learned from my own experience, and I learn from those I meet, that we are never left to our own resources. We are never abandoned. A wellspring of goodness, of strength and confidence is within us, and when we listen with a feeling of trust, we are raised up. We are healed. We not only survive, but we love life. We laugh; we enjoy; we go forward with faith.
The living water also nourishes. I testify to you that just as He promises, Christ comes to all who are heavy laden; He gives us rest (see Matt. 11:28). He sustains us when we are weary. A wellspring is a flowing well, offering continual refreshment—if we drink of it. Pride can destroy its effects, as can mere inattention. But those who drink deeply not only become whole themselves, but they become a fountain to others, as one spirit nurtures and feeds another.
Last year a dear family friend passed away. Lucile was 89 years old and had been a widow for more than 20 years. She was not a rich woman, she was not famous, and most of the world knew nothing of her passing. But her family knew. Her neighbors knew. The members of her ward knew. For all who had experienced her love, her death had left the world a diminished place. During her years as a widow, Lucile had endured difficult challenges, including the death of a beloved grandson and infirmities brought on by age. But Lucile continued to nourish everyone she knew with her spirit; with her baked goods, her quilts and afghans; with her humor and goodwill. And she loved to work in the temple. One spring day in 1981, she wrote in her journal: “This morning at 3:30 a.m., as I was walking up the path to the temple, I watched the flag gently blowing in the breeze and looked at the beautiful sky and thought how happy I was to be there. I felt sad for all the people who [were] sleeping and missing the awakening of a beautiful day.”
Most of us don’t think the world is “awakening” at 3:30 in the morning, and we’re perfectly happy to roll over in bed about then and allow Lucile to feel sorry for us. But what an attitude! Only a flow of goodness from within could explain it. Did she possess this purity of spirit at 15, at 25, or even 55? I don’t know. In most cases, it probably takes a lifetime of listening to the Holy Ghost before we know God’s voice so well and before we trust in the living waters enough to taste them throughout the entire day—especially a day that begins at 3:30 a.m. But I believe the living waters sustained Lucile during those long years when she might have given way to self-pity, and her life, her spirit, became nourishment to everyone she knew.
The living waters can bring peace and joy even when the wellspring within us seems to have dried. Recently I heard of a woman whose son, suffering from emotional illness, died unexpectedly. The family was devastated. The mother couldn’t imagine that she could ever know happiness again. But she was blessed by the service of a young woman, one of her former Laurel girls—now a young Relief Society sister and her visiting teacher—who said, “You helped me; now I’ll help you—and we’ll get through this together.” Peace, even joy, began to return to her life.
It may take a lifetime—and longer—to refine our spirits fully, but the living water is available to all, including the young. I’m inspired when I watch young women of the Church, after receiving spiritual training from childhood, enter the Relief Society and immediately bring added strength to more experienced women. I’m overjoyed when I watch those same young women realize how much they can learn from women older than themselves. Peace comes to us from the Lord, but we can help each other feel that peace as we share our burdens and our happiness.
Christ’s promise is simple and sublime: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Brothers and sisters, turmoil is raging all about us. Economies are in distress; families are struggling; we are living in, as President Hinckley has said, “perilous times” (“The Times in Which We Live,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 72; Liahona, Jan. 2002, 83). But the living waters still offer peace and joy. When we live righteously, when we have done all we can do, one of the gifts we receive is confidence. The Lord tells us, “Be still and know that I am God” (D&C 101:16). In the midst of chaos, we must pause. We must listen for the Spirit that tells us, “All is well!” (“Come, Come, Ye Saints,” Hymns, no. 30) just as the early Saints had to do. There is cause to be concerned, but there is greater reason to be at peace.
The Samaritan woman looked into the face of Christ, listened to His voice, and recognized Him at a time when most others rejected all He taught. We know Him too, or we can, if we allow His healing power, His nourishing strength, His peace and joy, to flow through us like “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” That we may do so is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.