The Woman with the Issue of Blood
By Kori Morgan
I think about her more than anyone else in Scripture. Of course, I wonder about the obvious questions: who was she, and what was her name? How old was she— or, given the nature of her infirmity, how young? These are things the Scriptures do not tell us. We know that she suffered from this affliction for twelve years, that she was broke from spending money on doctors who did not help her and instead made things worse.
But there are more pressing questions that come to my mind. What did it feel like? I remember the worst period I ever had—I was on vacation at the beach with my mom, lying in the hotel with a warm compress she borrowed from the woman at the front desk. It was as if someone had reached up inside me and was squeezing hard, my muscles contracting as the blood and flesh tugged downward. Four hours later, I felt well enough to go for a walk on the beach and a swim in the pool. The relief from pain made the water that much more refreshing.
Then, I think of the woman’s affliction. I multiply my four hours of pain from hours into days, weeks, months, and years. I imagine relentless filth, sporadic, unpredictable aches, and endless fatigue from iron deficiency.
And then there’s the mess. I try to imagine not owning a single piece of clothing that isn’t covered in the decay of dried, brown stains, having ill-equipped bathing facilities, and being constantly followed by the salty, earthy scent of fresh blood, leaving a trail of it in my wake.
But that isn’t even the worst part.
This woman would have lived a life of complete isolation. She would have been declared unclean by the Jewish priests, forbidden to make sacrifices at the Temple or worship God. She would have been treated as a leper, with people averting their eyes in disgust whenever she passed by.
I think of my mom bringing me the compress and a Coke from the vending machine down the hall, the kind woman at the front desk who was willing to help me by lending the compress and offering some snacks. This woman had none of these things.
I have trouble imagining all of this.
But there is, of course, more to the story.
We know the next part best: in desperation, she went to see Jesus when He returned to Capernaum. There was a thick, pressing crowd. People would have been avoiding her, or calling her names. The bloody stench would have been magnified by the heat of the day, by the sheer volume of people clamoring for His attention. Yet, she stayed. She made her way to the road, and when Jesus passed by, she reached out and touched the hem of His garment, believing that if she could simply do that, she would be healed.
I think back to those awful four hours in the hotel, to the relief when the last of the pain and dizziness left and my mom and I went to the beach—my feet sinking into the sand, surrounded by rippling waves. How I waded in, then dove down, the soft saltwater rushing over my head, how the consolation of that moment was somehow multiplied because of the discomfort that came before it.
But both my pain and joy pale in comparison to this woman’s. I cannot imagine what it would be like to suffer so long, after so much judgment and seclusion, only to have it suddenly and miraculously ended by a man who looks into your eyes and says, “Go in peace; your faith has made you well.”
Years after that day on the beach, I would experience a taste of it when I read the woman’s story for the first time in the Gospel of Luke. I had been sick myself for two months, battling an autoimmune disease that none of the doctors I’d seen could cure. I was not just physically ill, but sick with sin, dirty, messy, and weak. The world could never heal me; it could only make things worse.
Only One could remove this sickness if I would only reach out to touch Him.
Go in peace; your faith has made you well.
There are things about this woman’s story that I will never need to imagine, that are far more important than what it was like to live with the issue of blood. There is no need to imagine them, for someday, they will be real to me.
Like the look in His eyes, the sound of His voice, which I know are far more refreshing than being released into water from the clenching fist of pain.