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C.S. Lewis observed, “There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against [God].” The Devil loves to leverage our pains and fears to try to twist our view of Christ and his heart toward us.
One of the most reorienting stories for sufferers is Luke’s account of the bleeding woman and the dying daughter (Luke 8:40–56), which you can read here. At the intersection of two tragedies, we find Jesus—whose actions reveal his heart and our hope in suffering. This story also helps us identify and combat common lies we are tempted to believe in pain and anxiety. Consider three:
Lie #1: “If you had true faith, you wouldn’t be afraid.”
When Jesus asked who touched his garment, the bleeding woman—likely outcasted due to ritual uncleanness—“came [to Jesus] trembling” (v. 47). Undoubtedly, fighting through a crowd to touch Jesus was scary enough. Now, Jesus wanted her to identify herself in front of everyone—a fearful thought. Yet she still answered Jesus’ call, even while trembling.
How did Jesus respond to her trembling faith? He doesn’t say, “How dare you tremble? You should never feel fear while doing scary things or taking a step of faith!” Instead, Jesus says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace” (v. 48).
Jesus doesn’t condemn her trembling faith; he commends her trembling faith. His response reminds us that true faith isn’t the absence of fear. True faith is trusting God and following his calling amid our fears. It is not the absence of fear but the presence of faith which God commends.
Lie #2: “Jesus is annoyed with you and your constant neediness.”
After Jesus delays his journey to Jairus’ house to care for the bleeding woman, a messenger arrives and says to Jairus, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher anymore” (v. 49). The verb has negative undertones and could be translated as “bother” (NIV), “annoy,” or “harass.”
In seasons of suffering, we can be tempted to think our brokenness and neediness annoy Jesus. We picture Jesus with a bothered expression, saying,
- “You’re anxious again? Over this? How many times do I have to tell you to stop worrying?”
- “Do you actually have the nerve to ask me for help after all the sinning you’ve been doing?”
- “Will you quit crying? You should be done grieving by now.”
We think of Jesus as exhausted by our ongoing weaknesses and pleas for help. We see him with hair-trigger anger and reluctant compassion. But notice how Jesus responds to Jairus’ desperation: “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well” (v. 50).
Even before Jesus heals Jairus’ daughter, he comforts Jairus’ heart. This moment gives every suffering believer a window into Christ’s heart. Jesus’ knee-jerk reaction toward anxious and hurting believers is not condemnation but compassion. Not anger but affection. I love Dane Ortlund’s observation:
“The Old Testament speaks of God being ‘provoked to anger’ by his people dozens of times … But not once are we told that God is ‘provoked to love’ or ‘provoked to mercy.’ His anger requires provocation; his mercy is pent up, … ready to burst forth at the slightest prick.”
Lie #3: “Maybe if you cleaned yourself up (or weren’t so sinful), then Jesus would help you.”
Ritual uncleanness is one of the most important connections between the sick characters in this story. If anyone contacted a bleeding woman or dead body, that person would’ve himself become unclean.
Most would’ve avoided these individuals. Yet Jesus draws near. He heals the bleeding woman and calls her “daughter”—an endearing title for someone used to scowls and disgusted looks. But even more poignant is how Jesus treats the deceased daughter: “Taking her by the hand he called, saying, ‘Child, arise’” (v. 54).
Jesus could’ve healed the girl from miles away (cf. John 4:46–54). He could’ve stood outside Jairus’ home and shouted, “You, in there—rise!” He could’ve entered the room with a hazmat suit and healed her without contacting her uncleanness. But he didn’t.
Jesus drew close enough to touch, likely knelt beside her, and took her by the hand—willingly associating with her uncleanness. He embraced her while she was still unclean (cf. Rom. 5:6–8).
And so Christ does for us. When we turn to God in repentance, God runs to us in forgiveness (Luke 15:20; James 4:8). When we reach for Jesus’ hand again after sinning, he doesn’t jerk back his hand and say, “Don’t touch me!” If someone tries to remove their hand after we sin, it’s not Jesus—it’s us, shrinking back in shame. Yet, praise God, Jesus promises that no one will snatch his people from his hand (John 10:28)—not even us, by our sin and shame.
Jesus remains a hand-holding Savior, even when we are most unclean. Even when we feel like letting go of Jesus, he never lets go of us.
Jesus knows your suffering perfectly
One of the most curious details in this story is that the woman had been bleeding for 12 years, and Jairus’ daughter was 12 years old. While it’s hard to know the full significance of this connection, one thing is clear: Jesus knows every detail of our pain. He knows how many days (or years) we’ve suffered, the number of times we’ve tossed in bed, and the exact number of tears we’ve shed (Ps. 56:8).
We gasp both times we read 12 years—but for opposite reasons. For the bleeding woman, 12 years was grievously long. For the dying daughter, 12 years was grievously short. Who can’t relate to these pains? Much of our suffering comes from painful things lasting too long and good things not lasting long enough. God acknowledges both forms of suffering in this story.
I wonder if the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to include these numbers in part to say to every sufferer, “I see you. I know your pain. I know your timeline. I know your joys are often short-lived, and your sorrows feel unending. And I won’t leave your suffering unresolved.”
As Jesus said to Jairus, he says to you: Do not fear. Only believe. I am coming soon. When I do, everything will be made well. Until then, I will hold your hand—and I won’t let go (cf. Isa. 41:13; Ps. 139:10; Heb. 13:5).
Blake Glosson is a pastoral resident at Chapelstreet Church in Geneva, Illinois, and an MDiv student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and Crosswalk.com and republished and/or referred by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn), Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (here, here, and here), The JOY FM (The Morning Cruise with Dave, Bill, and Carmen), ChurchLeaders.com, The Aquila Report, Monergism.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.
Watch or listen to “Grace That Is Greater Than All Our Sin” here.
Read “Which Jesus Is ‘With You’ in Suffering?” here.
Read “In Suffering, God Isn’t (Simply) Teaching You a Lesson” here.
Read “7 Things to Say to a Hurting Loved One” here.