A doctor considers Bible account of woman with 12-year hemorrhage

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In a religious society rooted in purity, who could accompany, who could befriend, who could fall in love with a woman considered perpetually unclean?

Twelve years.

She had been bleeding for 12 years. 

To be sure, she had sought cure. In visits near and far, hopes were raised and dashed as each healer listened to her woes, took her money, and shook their head when measures inevitably fell short. If that wasn’t enough, the bleeding grew worse. And she was dubbed unclean. For 12 long years.

The cause and source of this poor woman’s hemorrhages are not entirely clear, but one is left with the impression that this is uterine bleeding. In my medical practice, there are so many causes for “metrorrhagia,” that is, vaginal bleeding independent of the regular menstrual cycle. Could the cause be structural, such as fibroid tumors, adenomyosis, or uterine polyps? Could it be hematologic like a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia, von Willebrand’s disease, or thrombocytopenia? Could it be hormonal like thyroid dysfunction? Given the duration, it seems less likely to be infection or malignancy, but even that is not completely out of the question. 

That said, regardless of its cause, her bleeding was a source of pain, exhaustion, and perhaps most pointedly, shame. In a religious society rooted in purity, who could accompany, who could befriend, who could fall in love with a woman considered perpetually unclean?

She flirted with hopelessness.

Nothing worked. Nothing helped. 


And then he came — The Healer. 

She had only heard things about him. Fantastical rumors — ridiculous things, really. And yet, there they were crushed around him carrying their private woes and intractable illnesses. Seeking health, seeking solace, seeking deliverance.

And so, almost unbidden, her feet began to move. Her elbows cut a path through the sea of shoulders. And as she reached out, she stumbled and grasped the mere hem — a few threads, really — of The Healer’s cloak. 

But he knew.

“Who touched me?”

The crowd grew silent, even pensive. The disciples grew incredulous with raised brows wordlessly asking, “Seriously?”

And then he knew. 

My child touched me. My beloved one whose name I know because it was carved into my hand. My dear one who walks like this and laughs like that, who glories in this and suffers through that. The entire life story of this loved one was known intimately and tenderly by this Unbound God-Man.

Initially, her instinct was shame. But once lost in his gaze, all shame vanished. 

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest,” his eyes whispered. “If you have but the faith of a mustard seed, you will move mountains,” his smile assured. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” his gentle hands reminded. 

And she was healed, clean, and forever changed.

God knows that sometimes we are so broken, so desperate, so self-annihilating, that we have nothing left but to recklessly push through the crowd, fall on our knees, and seize whatever threads we can from the frayed hem of Christ. But this delights God. It delights him that we found our way home. As Charles Peguy once wrote,

What surprises me, says God, is hope. And I can’t get over it. This little hope who seems like nothing. This little girl hope. Immortal … It’s she, the little one, who carries them all. Because Faith sees only what is. But she, she sees what will be. Charity loves only what is. But she, she loves what will be.

God glories in our hope. He restores our forgotten dignity, rewards our persistent strivings, and reminds us that heirs to eternity need not stray. 

Twelve years of suffering is such a long time. But in an instant, it ended.

“Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Imagine the gratitude. Imagine the peace.

Welcome home, lovely child.

Tod Worner is a practicing internal medicine physician, Managing Editor of Evangelization & Culture, the Journal of the Word on Fire Institute, and Host of TheEvangelization & Culture Podcast.

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