One of the most suspense-filled, exciting, and emotionally-drenched stories in Scripture, at least for me, is found in Luke 8, Matthew 9, and Mark 5. This is where we meet the Bleeding Woman. Every time I’ve ever heard this story spoken about, each time the pastor or speaker has failed to truly impart the significance of her actions and of her infirmity. I remember sitting in pews and wondering where she was bleeding from and what the significance of her blood was. Now I understand that she had a problem with her menstruation.
Period blood. This type of blood produces the most disgust in people, particularly men, even though it is the only blood not born of violence, other than the blood that is shed while giving birth. This type of blood is natural and serves a specific purpose: it prepares the uterus to possibly bear a child after the lining is shed throughout those 5-7 days or so. Or, if you’re like the Bleeding Woman, and like me, that period can last for a week and a half, two weeks, even years. In the Bleeding Woman’s case, she bled for 12 years. 12 years of constant menstrual blood with no way to stop it.
Although our western society doesn’t ban women from church during their period or force them into seclusion, Jesus’ cultural group did. Many groups in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa still practice some type of period-shaming, which can even cost the woman her life in some cases. During Jesus’ time, a menstruating woman was considered “unclean.” She was not permitted to go into the synagogue. She was not permitted to be around other people. She had no pads or tampons to catch her blood. No pain killers for those days when the cramps and headaches were too much to bear. No heating pads to give relief. Nothing. Women of that time used cloth and stayed away from everyone while they bled.
For a woman with a regular menstrual cycle, this was probably a welcome getaway from having to manage the home, the cooking, and the cleaning for that week. She probably relaxed and had some alone time. But for the Bleeding Woman, this was her entire life as a menstruating woman. She had been consistently denied fellowship and probably lamented never having the chance to marry or have children. How could she have any of those things? She was unclean and needed to separate herself from others lest she tarnish them as well.
I’ve had my fair share of lonely nights and, let’s face it, lonely days with no one to talk to, no one to share my heart with. I’ve faced depression and anxiety, which can feel incredibly isolating. But I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have been cast aside for 12 years, with literally not one soul to cling to. The Bleeding Woman was resilient; she was still hopeful despite the decade of infirmity, loneliness, and doctors who could not cure her. She believed that someone was the cure for her illness. That person was Jesus Christ.
The Bleeding Woman saw Him walking with a massive crowd pressing all around Him. I imagine her adjusting the scarf on her head, careful to hide her face from her neighbors lest they expose her identity, and secretly joining the crowd that followed Jesus. She weaved her way closer to Him and with the strong faith she had, she knew that if she could but touch His
tzitzit (the fringes on His prayer shawl), she would be healed. Even His garments declared healing! She did so and was instantly healed. With that, she was all set to quietly slip away. But Jesus called upon her to identify herself. As a woman who had been unwanted and unloved for 12 years, how had her identity been warped by that seclusion? How did she speak to herself? What name did she call herself? Unclean? Unwanted?
The Bleeding Woman answered, fearfully explaining her reasoning for touching Him and her hope for healing. Jesus called her “daughter”, remarked that her faith had brought her healing, and commissioned her to live in peace.
I am the Bleeding Woman. I suffer from a condition reminiscent of hers: endometriosis. I’ve had severe bleeding and pain for weeks on end. I’ve tried countless ways to end the pain and have seen far too many doctors than I can remember. Recently I’ve been placed on birth control to stop my period, thereby stopping my pain, but not actually curing the disease. Endometriosis doesn’t have a cure, they say. I’ve accepted that I may deal with this illness for the rest of my menstruating days, content to be on birth control until the doctor finds another way to treat me.
But if Jesus healed the Bleeding Woman, who most likely had endo or something related to it, can He not heal me? Why haven’t I asked for Him to heal MY issue of blood when He so obviously longs to do so? I’ve suffered for 10 years with no cure. The Bleeding Woman suffered for 12. I’ve been to various doctors who have had no answer for me. So did the Bleeding Woman. The Bleeding Woman didn’t run up to Jesus, open her arms wide, and proclaim before the world, “Heal my reproductive issues! My vagina doesn’t stop bleeding!” No, she gently and gingerly approached the One whom she knew had the key to her healing. She displayed great faith which doesn’t need to shout from the rooftops all the time. Sometimes faith is quieter, more afraid, but still trusting. Faith is asking for what you need, knowing that He will give you what you need, even if you’re afraid. Faith is what moves the hand of God to heal, no matter how you approach Him.