I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to “eat crow” over some idea I had or position I held that turned out to be, oh not necessarily “wrong” but “too small” or “too narrow” for the subject at hand. It’s made me a bit gun shy at times to make a definitive statement before I’ve had the time to really contemplate my own thoughts.
After all, as the scripture says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) This, and all the wisdom of the fathers warning us about the delusion of our own hearts and minds as well as the spiritual cancer of prelest (spiritual self-righteousness) should at least slow us down in making final statements about deep truths. Maybe a bit of humility is necessary.
Look at our lesson today in Mark 5:24-34:
At that time, a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.” And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
This is such a familiar story in the Gospels that I wonder how much treasure we should be gleaning from this passage.
First, notice the desperation of this woman. She had spent years and a fortune trying to get this doctor and that doctor to help her with her physical problem. And after all that effort, all that attention, all that suffering she wasn’t better at all. In fact, she was worse. I confess I’ve felt that way about spiritual illnesses in my own life. I’ve become discouraged of ever finding a way out of the pain of this or that spiritual struggle. I bet you’ve felt the same way at times. I’ve felt the desperation of one last try! I’ve also felt the joy of that “last hope” being Christ Himself!
Next, notice that the crowd didn’t realize what was going on right in front of them. They were all consumed by their own struggles and desires to see and touch Christ. What a gift that the Gospel gives us this insight into the treasure of this woman’s struggle and her healing. You may find that others around you are so consumed with their own struggles that they don’t notice your own desperate place. But don’t let that discourage you. Touch Christ!
Finally, notice Christ and His deeper knowing. Everyone was trying to touch Him. The crowd was pressing in on Him. The palpable desperation was everywhere. Suffering people. Hungry people. Desperate people, all wanting Jesus to make them better. Were they helped too? Were they healed too? We can’t say. But we do know this woman touched the hem of the Lord’s robe in desperate faith. And she was healed that instant. The Lord knew He had been touched by a desperate faith. Of course, He knew who touched Him, but He wanted the crowd to know who touched Him too. There are stories in your life that others need to hear. Those desperate around you in despair that they will ever find peace. Your willingness to be made known and share your story with others may just be what they need to hear!
Today, your present suffering is offering you an opportunity. 12 years this woman suffered, and all of that was to bring her to Jesus Christ. If you allow your suffering to bring you to Jesus Christ in humility and faith, you will see your suffering in a whole new light. You will find the treasure of being Orthodox on Purpose.
P.S. On this feast day of St. Barbara the Great Martyr, let us allow the witness of this great saint to readjust our focus on Christ and away from temporary things! Help me keep this encouraging ministry going by participating in our end-of-the-year giving campaign. Go to https://faithencouraged.org/make-a-donation/ and make your gift today!