Something remarkable happens in Matthew 9:18-22. It is a mysterious miracle behind a miracle. Here is Saint Matthew’s account:
“As Jesus was saying this, the leader of the synagogue came and knelt before him. ‘My daughter has just died,’ he said, ‘but you can bring her back to life again if you just come and lay your hand on her.’
So Jesus and his disciples got up and went with him. Just then a woman who had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding came up behind him. She touched the fringe of his robe, for she thought, ‘If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.’
Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said. ‘Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.”
I would like you to focus on this part of the event: “. . . a woman who had suffered for twelve years . . .” It is waaay too easy to read those eight words and not grasp the gravity of what is happening. We tend to focus on the miraculous healing Jesus performs with this woman’s chronic illness. But if I may make so bold, I will share with you what it means to suffer for twelve years with chronic illness and pain.
In the beginning, you know something is wrong but you don’t know what. You try to shrug it off and get on with life. But the pain interferes with increasing frequency. You have trouble sleeping. You can’t concentrate at work. Many of your favorite activities make the pain worse. Finally, you go to the doctor. He orders an X-ray, some tests and lab work. The results are inconclusive. He prescribes medications to ease the symptoms. The meds work for a while but eventually the pain returns. Desperate, you give up many activities. It’s almost impossible to get comfortable at night and this causes you to lose sleep. You are constantly fatigued. You quite work and take a job with fewer responsibilities in exchange for greater flexibility from your new employer. You still miss a lot of time from work. You earn a fraction of your former salary. You continue to see doctors and specialists. Much of your time and income goes to doctors, physical therapists and the pharmacy. Your family’s standard of living takes a dive. You can’t do the things everyone else does. You endure a surgery that fixes part of the problem, but the pain continues. You begin to think it is all in your head, but you know better. You try alternative treatments. You reveal your condition to Christian friends and clergy. They often lay hands on you and pray for you, but there is no relief. As the years slip away, self-loathing creeps into your thoughts. You are irritable and gloomy. It becomes very difficult for your spouse and family to endure you. Sexual intimacy decreases to almost nil. You entertain thoughts of jumping off a bridge. You wonder if the pain will get so bad you will, in a moment of madness, abruptly end your life. You get pissed off at God for allowing this to continue. You challenge God to either kill you or make you well. You become the definition of discouragement.
Then one day it all comes together. The doctor orders an MRI and the problem is identified. You try a new medication and the pain is gone. With some minimal lifestyle modification and staying on your medication, you can live for many years without chronic pain from your illness. It’s impossible to describe how exuberant this feels. Getting your life back is the miracle behind the miracle of healing.
Here is where I must be absolutely honest with you. I do not know why miraculous healings happen so rarely. But the longer I’m alive on this earth the more I appreciate that healing is healing, period! When you struggle for years to find healing, you’ll take it any way you can, even if it’s through what we consider the conventional science of modern medicine. To me, the most sacred and miraculous part of healing is the miracle behind the miracle of healing—getting your life back. Once you get it back, are you going to do something special with it, or try to return to your former life? Here’s the secret: there is no going back to your former life after you’ve been healed.