Life in the Shadows

Imagine spending every day in the shadows. Knowing you can’t feel or touch anything. An emotion of hopelessness presides over every day. You have no energy to accomplish anything. Your mind feels numb. You can’t remember what it feels like to have a good day, to experience pleasure, or to accomplish something. You feel haunted by your past, empty, unwanted, unclean, shameful, and guilty. One question continues to plague your mind, “Where are you God?” This question’s theme and variation play in your mind creating a torturous cacophony. “Do you hate me?” “What did I do to deserve this?” “Why are you so far away?”

When we go through life feeling like this we often believe that God doesn’t care. This thinking must have echoed in the mind of the woman with the hemorrhage of blood described in Luke 8:40-48. This woman had lived life in the shadows for 12 years. Her bleeding had rendered her perpetually unclean according to the Old Testament Law (Leviticus 15:19-30). This meant that she could not go into the temple to worship. Anyone that she touched would be unclean. Anywhere that she sat, laid, or slept would be unclean. This would have literally relegated her to the status of a leper, except a leper had the white flesh and companions outside the city. She had to announce her embarrassing condition to everyone who drew near, and as far as she knew she was the only one to suffer with this ailment. She lived in her own personal hell of loneliness. In the beginning she must have attempted to keep her relationships, but now it wasn’t worth it. All her friends and even family had left her long ago. They couldn’t deal with the continual uncleanness of this tortured woman. She felt like she was alone in the world rejected by everyone, accepted by none

Her distress about the perpetual uncleanness that plagued her is evident, “She had spent all of her living on physicians.”(Luke 8:43) Imagine her despair as she walked out of the office of the last doctor having spent her last penny and was still without hope after 12 years with this affliction. These years must have felt like an eternity. 12 years without personal contact. 12 years rejected by men. 12 years without friendship. 12 years of emotional and physical pain, shame with absolutely no hope of recovery. Her shame must have brought her into deep anxiety and depression. Her uncleanness impacted everything she touched. She must have had a feeling of deep despair. It was in that place of despair that she heard about Jesus the healer. Some even said He was the Messiah. She went and found Him. The crowd pressed around Him. Jairus, a respected man in the synagogue, spoke with Jesus. She stood in the shadows and listened wanting to speak, but couldn’t find the words. Her mind screamed, “How can you, a woman condemned, unclean, a woman with such a burden of shame, go and speak to such a respected man? You might contaminate Him. You are not worth the effort?” But through her tortured thoughts she heroically devised a plan, “If only I can touch the hem of His garments I can be healed and He will never know.” She began to press through the crowd. Guilt and shame must have racked this painful journey as she squeezed through the crowd leaving every person she passed unclean by the OT Law. Finally, she could see Jesus. With boldness and faith she reached out and touched the outer edge of His robes. At that instant the bleeding that had continued for 12 years rendering her unclean, ceased. Imagine her joy as for a moment she could imagine life without the horrible disease. But then it all came down upon her when Jesus called out, “Who touched me?” She must have felt guilt and remorse for what she had done. Would He punish her? She retreated into the shadows hoping He would ignore what had happened. All of the pain that she felt before was now intensified by guilt. She had hope when Peter confronted Jesus with the fact that everyone was touching everyone in this large crowd. But Jesus continued to ask, “Who touched me, I felt power go out from me?”

Finally in shame she fell before Him trembling, afraid to look into His eyes she explained her story through tears. Her greatest fear had become a reality. She was expecting a rebuke, expecting the crowd to recoil from her as she had seen happen all too often in these past 12 year. But instead Jesus called her, “Daughter.” She heard words of acceptance, joy, and relationship. This was not what she had expected. Her agonized heart felt warmth. He had not rejected her. In fact He had called her daughter. She who had been an outcast, unclean, shameful was now accepted as a daughter. But Jesus wasn’t done yet. “Your faith has made you whole.” Not only did He accept her, He praised her. She was no longer the walking mistake, a mystery to doctors. She was proclaimed a woman of faith. Then Jesus said to her, “Go in peace.” Words that just a few minutes ago would have caused her to laugh. Peace was the furthest thing from her life. But within seconds of meeting this Jesus she had peace. Jesus hadn’t just healed her physical ailment; He healed her emotional and even her spiritual ailment. She had spent all her money to find healing. She had travelled far, been to every doctor, and tried every remedy. She had pressed through the crowd, endured the shame of being pointed out by Jesus, and now for the first time in 12 long years she felt relief from her pain. She had exchanged her uncleanness for cleanness. Her faith had made her well.

What a beautiful story to help those of us struggling with depression, chronic pain, shame, and anxiety. We feel like outcasts. Some who struggle with anxiety and depression feel as if they told anyone their story they would be thought of as crazy. Men and women who struggle with sin run from the stain that will most assuredly follow them. Those who have been abused cower in the shadows in fear that the sin perpetrated on them might just spill out on everyone. Fearing to speak for fear they may be taken advantage of again. They look at the Jairuses that have it all put together, enviously wishing that they could be like them, but discouraged when they face the “reality” of their circumstances. Some feel unclean because of their own sin, others because of what someone has done to them. Yet, Jesus invites all who are struggling to come to Him and become clean. On the cross He became unclean. He bore more shame than any man can imagine. As He who knew no sin became sin for us, He bore the sin of every man on that cross, every evil thought, rape, genocide, and murder. He took them all upon His back. He bore our shame, guilt, and pain. The just died for the unjust so that the unclean could become clean, so that the stain of sin could be removed once and for all.

Today if you are struggling with depression, pain, shame, guilt. If you’ve asked that question, “Where are you God?” I want to remind you that He is there waiting for you to reach out in faith and “touch His garment.” There is peace at the cross. If this feels like something that you couldn’t do by yourself ask a friend to walk through it with you. There is no giant “easy button” for years of guilt, shame, and depression. Talk to your pastor or a godly friend in church. The healing may take time. This process in our lives takes time, but the Gospel works. Jesus makes the broken whole, the unclean clean. He brings you into His family, commends your faith, and offers you peace that can’t be taken away.

Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”