The 8th chapter of Luke recounts two healings within one story. Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, comes to Jesus to ask him to heal his only daughter who is twelve years old. Jesus begins the journey to Jairus’ home but is swarmed by a crowd. Amidst the crowd is a woman who has had a flow of blood for twelve years and has exhausted all means of healing. As Jesus passes by there are so many people around him that she cannot get close enough to talk but she reaches out and touches his clothes and she is healed immediately. A conversation ensues about her faith and Jesus eventually continues his journey to Jairus’ home where he says to the corpse, “Child, arise”. She is raised from the dead and the parents are encouraged to believe and have faith.
Twelve years, as it represents a child’s life, seems far too brief and implies that much lies ahead or at least should lie ahead. We expect twelve year olds to grow into adults. Their entire potential is out there for them to live into. They are just beginning their formative years of adolescence and are on the brink of becoming who they are intended to be. A life ended at twelve is far too short. In twelve years we have come to pin certain hopes on a child. Here all the hopes for her are dashed and, we may imagine, much of the parents’ hope for the future also fades with her death. How can they face the future without this hope?
Twelve years, as it represents suffering from hemorrhaging, seems far too long and implies that this woman has carried a huge burden of illness for a very long time. How draining it must be to lose blood so frequently and severely. And how dark and dismal the future must seem to one who has suffered so much. One more day of suffering must seem interminably long.
In one case the twelve year old girl may symbolize an all too brief past where things seemed so good but now the future is lost. In the other case, the future is lost because the past is so long and heavy and it’s hard to imagine a future any different from what has been going on these many years. Twelve years can be far too brief a time and far too long a time. In both situations hope seems impossible.
Into both those situations, Jesus offers himself and the healing of God himself. The woman who has suffered so can now move on in freedom and wholeness. She can go about in society and even worship in the temple (where she would have been seen as unclean so long as her blood was flowing). No longer tired and ostracized, the future surely seems different to her. The little girl, with all the lost hope she represents, now can rise and develop into a young woman. She can have her own family and be part of the re-creative force of life.
Depending on the day, we are often either the little girl or the suffering woman. We are constantly reminded that life is very short, that things we hoped would come about are not going to and we are left to wonder what this life really means. Many times our days seem far too long as we are stuck with burdens we have carried so long they threaten to become our very identity. We are no longer one who has had struggle; we are now a victim of all that has occurred. We feel abused and hopeless and forget to see ourselves as a person with any future at all.
Some things seem far too brief in life. Some things seem far too long. Discouragement clouds our perspective and we can’t see things as we want to see them. Into our discouragement, Jesus enters with his hopeful and healing touch. The things that seemed too brief get redefined. New things come to us and we are given purpose again. The things that seem interminably long eventually end. Our dark outlook is lightened and we see that pain is not as permanent as we had come to fear.
In the darkness of discouragement, the light of Christ is waiting to shine. Sometimes we must trust that it is there in order to see it. Sometimes it travels a great distance and comes to us we know not how. But discouragement is a place where God shows up and brings healing. The past can seem so heavy or the future so dark that we sometimes forget to simply be where we are today. If you are discouraged, be there this day. But do not forget that the Lord is there with you. The light will come to you.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.