“If only I could get close to the Rabbi, but I am a rejected outcast who no one wants to be near.” These were probably some of the thoughts of the woman with no name in Mark 5:25-34. By now she was most likely anemic and exhausted after suffering a debilitating illness that left her hemorrhaging for twelve grueling years. All her money had gone to pay various doctors who’d tried horrific treatments, but nothing worked. She was broken in body and spirit and was desperately desperate.
Because of the continual bleeding she was considered an unclean person. This meant that she was restricted from entering the temple for worship, and if she touched anything or anyone they would become unclean. I can only imagine how lonely and unlovable she must have felt. She may have pondered, “I wish I could throw myself at the feet of this one who heals, but that’s not possible. Perhaps I can squeeze in close enough to touch the hem of His garment without anyone noticing.”
And that’s exactly what she did.
I can picture her in my mind, silently edging her way through the crowd and fearfully dropping to her hands and knees. Hoping that no one will notice, she carefully stretches her shaking hand through the legs and feet of the people surrounding Jesus and lightly touches the bottom of His tunic. And in that dramatic moment, divine power surges through her body and she is instantly healed. Suddenly she is filled with a strength she hasn’t felt for years and she knows that Jesus has made her whole. Oh, how her heart must have overflowed with happiness.
It’s possible that this has gone unnoticed by the eyes of those around, but it could not be hidden from Jesus. In the midst of the chaos, He stops, turns, and asks, “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30). And after what seemed like forever, the trembling woman comes forward. Much to her surprise, instead of scolding her, Jesus lovingly says, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34).
Wait a minute…what did He call her? Our Savior used the endearing term, “Daughter” indicating that He recognized her as His own. Someone wanted her! How her heart must have beat uncontrollably as she moved beyond the mere happiness of being physically healed, into the overwhelming joy of being in a loving relationship with Jesus.
The word happiness comes from the Middle English word hap which meant “chance” or “good luck.” As you might suspect, this is the same root word for “happening.” This means that happiness is an emotion of pleasure and enjoyment that directly corresponds to the external things that are going on around us. This is the reason the woman’s heart in Mark 5 was filled with happiness. She was elated that her bleeding suddenly stopped, but this positive feeling was dependent on her circumstances which could change at any moment.
In contrast, the word joy indicates something far more profound. It comes from the Greek root word chara which means “to be exceedingly glad.” It is related to the Greek root word for “grace” (charis) which originally signified “favor” and “lovingkindness”—especially as granted by a superior to an inferior.
After studying the scriptures and looking at brain science, the authors of Rare Leadership have concluded that “joy” is the feeling of well-being in the deepest part of our soul and is primarily relational. They state that “Joy is a delight in our relationships with God and others” (Marcus Warner/Jim Wilder). This is the reason the woman in Mark 5 moved beyond circumstantial happiness to irresistible joy. And I believe that if she remained in relationship with Jesus, she could embrace joy no matter her circumstances.
The same is true for us as believers today. The Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus reveals that we can experience an intimate relationship with the Holy One that should penetrate our hearts with joy.
“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and dept, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to the fulness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
God desires for us to be so intimately acquainted with Him that His love fills up the broken places in our hearts and souls. But we have an enemy, Satan, who does everything in his limited power to prevent this from happening.
Beginning with Adam and Eve in the garden, the evil one has been shooting fiery darts at God’s children in all-out war to keep us from trusting the Lord and the safe people He’s placed in our lives. As a result, we aren’t experiencing the interpersonal enjoyment that is necessary for embracing joy. But when we bring the lies out of the darkness and allow God to heal us from the inside out, we can replace these false beliefs with God’s truth and find comfort in His presence. This may require a healing journey that is horrendous at times, but it will be worth it in the end.
So, how can we embrace joy when trials come our way?
Five years ago, when my husband was diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma, an eye cancer with no cure, I struggled with the realization that I probably wouldn’t grow old with the love of my life as I’d planned. Although my happiness was dashed, I was determined not to lose one day grieving without hope. So, each time I felt sad, I would fall on my knees and turn my eyes to the Holy One. Heaven and earth came together for me in those precious moments, and I found comfort from my heavenly Father…comfort that helped me “return to joy.”
Have you ever felt lonely and unlovable like the woman in Mark 5? Have you done something in your past or has someone done something to you that made you feel unclean? God wants to draw you into a loving relationship so that you can embrace joy, like she did. Though our happiness may ebb and flow depending on our circumstances, our joy can remain constant if we pursue an intimate relationship with the Holy One. In His glorious presence we can embrace joy, in the good times and the bad.