There was a woman who had suffered for years. But it wouldn’t go away. She had tried everything. She was alone. She was out of money and it wasn’t getting better. The doctors had no answers.
She was at the end of her rope. And it’s not just her. Men and women, young and old are at the end of their ropes today. Having spent time at the end of the rope myself – but having spent more time with others at the ends of their ropes – it’s an awful place to be – especially when it goes on for years. Sometimes it’s guilt and shame. Sometimes it’s being addicted to alcohol or drugs. Sometimes it’s chronic financial and job struggles – always just making it – or not. Sometimes it’s grieving and having a difficult time getting over the loss of a friend or loved one. Sometimes it’s being in an abusive relationship. Sometimes it’s not being popular and/or being bullied at school. Sometimes it’s a deteriorating marriage or relationship. Sometimes it’s a medical condition like cancer or Alzheimer’s and dementia. And of course it’s often not only the person who is directly suffering, but loved ones around them that are at the end of rope too.
Jesus was within reach. And because Jesus was within reach – peace, healing and restoration were also within reach.
As you know, it is not as simple as that. Jesus is always within reach. But, it’s the reach, right?
A reach is leaving our comfort zones, it requires a choice, it requires effort, it requires risk, and it requires that something be left behind. And you know, there are just times when we know it’s right, we know we have to – but we still have trouble letting go of something unhealthy or destructive. I wish it weren’t so, but it’s part of our broken human nature to cling to things that are destructive…because they are more comfortable to us than what is healthy and renewing – especially when it might take a risk or a reach.
For the woman it was a risk to reach Jesus – it could have cost her everything.
For the woman, she had virtually nothing left, but would be getting Jesus in trouble with the religious officials.
Maybe there was just something about Jesus.
The woman, literally reached for Jesus, “if I but touch his cloak, I will be healed,” she thought to herself.
Just as she grabbed his cloak, she knew it was over – she was healed! And then the words, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague (Mark 5:34 The Message).” And by calling her daughter, He touched and healed (with words) her deep wound of isolation and rejection. By calling her daughter, He was saying that she belonged, that she was loved by God!! She went from broken and alone to healed, whole and blessed!
I guess the woman could have played it safe. We might say that she would have healed over time. The woman would have gone on alone and suffering. Not much of a life though.
Not much of a life though.
We play it safe – too safe. We are held hostage by our fears and doubts. We make compromises and deals and say, “We can live with it.” But deep down, the ache and the regret and the “what ifs” overflow in our souls. We hold on because it feels safer and more comfortable, though it’s killing us.
That is why this woman has always meant so much to me – she challenges me and reminds me. She reminds me to always be thinking about my faith; the times I have reached and been blessed and convicting me for the times I haven’t. And she reminds me of some special people I have known who have made that reach. And how they found faith and healing and yes, even miracles.
Because when we are reaching and risking for Jesus’ sake, our faith is real and alive. From the inside out, from behind the wall, out of the silence, out from the pew, beyond the doors, beyond our fears – that is where the healing is, that is where the miracles are, it is where we live – blessed – on the other side of the reach – in the handful of His cloak, in the humbled “ask” for help – in the surrender. The world says that surrender is defeat and weakness – God shows that surrender is victory, surrender is the way to peace, healing and restoration.
How much risk is in your faith today? In which parts of your life are you reaching out to Jesus? What needs to be left behind as you reach? In which parts of your life are you risking something, if not everything, in faith?
Or let me you ask this…How badly do you want or need peace, healing and restoration? Because I want you to know today…it’s within your reach.
Rev. Christopher B. Wolf
Christopher B. Wolf is pastor of First Reformed Church of Saddle Brook, New Jersey. He is the author of Giving Faith a Second Chance: Restarts, Mulligans and Do-Overs (2007) and the forthcoming, With You: Every Step of the Way (2011).
“It is a matter of sharing and bearing the pain and puzzlement of the world so that the crucified love of God in Christ may be brought to bear healingly upon the world at exactly that point.” N.T. Wright