Faith in the Valley: When Joy Comes Back

ValleyKate2To start with, here’s the debrief e-mail that I sent out to those attending on Tuesdays because I think it had a couple good points for those of you following online.

Thanks for another great discussion.
Honestly, I felt a little discombobulated today and was having all my epiphanies DURING the discussion rather than before it, which is not ideal as the leader, but it does help me as I put material together for Nicaragua. You ladies had some great insights that I couldn’t process as quickly as I wanted to.
Two things that I came away with:
Firstly, Naomi’s valley place was bitter, partially because of feelings of emptiness and loneliness and loss.  It was companionship, loyalty, and love from another woman that seems to have brought her out of that. The sweetness of friendship contrasts with the bitterness of loneliness. I hope my relationships will reveal me to be willing to let go of bitterness and accept friendship.  Isn’t it odd how we sometimes DON’T accept the hand of friendship when it is offered to us? Also, I want to extend the sweetness of friendship and love EVEN to those who may seem a bit bitter or unpleasant.
Secondly, Nancy shared about renaming the bitter places in our life after God sweetens them.  As far as we know, neither the Israelites (who drink bitter water from a spring after God sweetens it with a  stick) nor Naomi rename their bitter time/place after it is transformed by God.  The spring water is still called Marah, and it’s not Naomi, but her friends who reflect on the joy Obed brings to her life.  As far as we know, she is still called Mara too.  When God transforms my bitterness, I want to allow it to be CALLED a sweet time.
Twenty years ago, I went to a conference and heard a woman speak about a broken engagement and how painful it was for her.  In the margin of my Bible I wrote something she said, which was, “The sweetness that follows the pain is sharper than the pain itself.”  As we talked about bitterness and sweetness today, and reflecting on the broken engagement part of my story, I remember that idea and connected it with what Nancy said–that God can sweeten the bitter places of our lives in a way that is sharper than the pain was. We should acknowledge that by “renaming” that time.
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Our character for this week is a woman that Jesus heals from 12 years of bleeding.  I am going to call her Faith because, as I’m sure you’ll appreciate, calling her the woman with the issue of blood is dehumanizing in a way that I just can’t handle.  I’m going to include our reading Here are the Scriptures for today’s discussion.


Leviticus 15: 19-33 (ESPECIALLY v. 25)(NIV)
19 “‘When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.
20 “‘Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. 21 Anyone who touches her bed will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. 22 Anyone who touches anything she sits on will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. 23 Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, they will be unclean till evening. 24 “‘If a man has sexual relations with her and her monthly flow touches him, he will be unclean for seven days; any bed he lies on will be unclean.
25 “‘When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period. 26 Any bed she lies on while her discharge continues will be unclean, as is her bed during her monthly period, and anything she sits on will be unclean, as during her period. 27 Anyone who touches them will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. 28 “‘When she is cleansed from her discharge, she must count off seven days, and after that she will be ceremonially clean. 29 On the eighth day she must take two doves or two young pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 30 The priest is to sacrifice one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. In this way he will make atonement for her before the Lord for the uncleanness of her discharge. 31 “‘You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place,[a] which is among them.’” 32 These are the regulations for a man with a discharge, for anyone made unclean by an emission of semen, 33 for a woman in her monthly period, for a man or a woman with a discharge, and for a man who has sexual relations with a woman who is ceremonially unclean.

Leviticus 12

12 The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding.

“‘When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering.[a] He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood. “‘These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl.

But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’”


Mark 5:21-43

Jesus Raises a Dead Girl and Heals a Sick Woman

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

36 Overhearing[a] what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.


Luke 8:40-56

Jesus Raises a Dead Girl and Heals a Sick Woman

 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years,[a] but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”

50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”

53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.


Matt 9:18-26

18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region.

FOR STUDY

  1. Where was Jesus going when he encountered Faith?
  2. Where did Jairus’ work? For whom was Jairus’ advocating?
  3. How long had Faith been subject to bleeding?
  4. What were the Jewish laws regarding her contact with other people?
  5. How would her condition have impacted her lifestyle?
  6. Luke was a physician and he gives us an additional detail about Faith’s condition.
  7. What does Jesus ask when He feels power leave Him?
  8. Her reaction to being called out is fear and then confession. What does this tell us about her?
  9. What is the tone of Jesus’ response to Faith? The disciples’ tone?
  10. How does Jesus respond to the fact that HE has been made unclean according to the law?

FOR DISCUSSION

  1. Describe what you think Faith’s life would have been like.
  2. Why do you think Faith was hesitant to present herself to Jesus for healing?
  3. Why do you suspect that Jesus singled out Faith in spite of her uncleanness?
  4. What is surprising about Jesus’ response to Faith in light of Levitical law?
  5. Discuss Jesus’ actions in light of Lev 15:31.
  6. Think about the length of illness and the critical nature of both Jairus’ daughter and Faith. How would you prioritize their suffering?
  7. It seems like everyone in this story would have preferred Jesus to silently heal Faith without stopping to chat. He would have gotten to Jairus’ daughter sooner, kept Faith from embarrassment, and not frustrated the disciples. What do we learn about Jesus from the fact that He DOES stop to heal her and speak to her?
  8. DIscuss how Jesus resurrects TWO lives in this passage. Think about how long Faith has been bleeding and how old Jairus’ daughter is. We are given this info, so it seems significant. 
  9. Compare how the women had to be cleansed of uncleanness in Leviticus with how Faith is healed by Jesus.

 

 FOR REFLECTION

  1. Do these Levitical laws bother you? Why or why not?
  2. How do you feel about Jesus response to Faith touching him? Try to notice if you are projecting any of your fears or feelings onto the situation.
  3. Have you ever felt that God was not understanding the timeline that you were on?
  4. Have you ever been reluctant to ask God for healing? Did you worry about presenting your uncleanness to God?
  5. Would you say that Faith demonstrates EXTREME faith? Or does she seem a bit chicken to you?
  6. This week, I was talking to a friend who said that often shame is what we present to God and humility is what he exchanges it for. Do you think Faith comes to Jesus’ shamefully or in humility?
  7. What does this story demonstrate to us about the kind of little “f” faith that Jesus’ desires?
  8. That Faith is still seeking healing after 12 years and is not resigned to her condition shows us what about her?
  9. Have you had to be very longsuffering in waiting for Jesus’ healing in an area of your life? Have you been reluctant to reach out to Him for the healing you need?

SingingOurWayCoverSqRecently, I checked out a CD from the library called Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the Bravest Kids by Alastair Moock. I didn’t realize it until we listened to it, but it is actually a collection of music to encourage kids with cancer and other serious illnesses. One of the songs is an old bluesy-gospel tune called “Joy Comes Back.” Here’s a video of a beautiful little girl grooving to the song on the way to one of her treatments. Listen and watch her sweet, determined face.

Click over to the blog if you’re reading in email.

Apart from being very catchy, there is that one line that’s just been stuck in my head ever since I first heard it.

I wanna be ready . .  .when joy comes back to me.

 Whether our valleys are rejection, or abuse, or sadness, or loneliness, or sickness, facing despair is a vicious thing. In our valleys, it’s tough to fight away the despair that invites disbelief, doubt, and faithlessness.

 Faith in the valley means that we are READY, hand outstretched, pressing against the crowd, mustering our fragment of courage to show our readiness for Jesus to restore our joy, our wholeness, our cleanness, our hope. Even if we are trembling with fear, even if doctors have given us no hope, even if 12 years have gone by, even if we are taking a risk of exposure, humiliation, and rejection, we are ready to do as Faith does. She moves toward Jesus, receives His powerful healing, and then tells the truth. And he says “Go in peace.”  After 12 years of uncleanness . . .go in peace.

Can you even imagine?!

10. In your valley, are you ready for Jesus to restore your joy, or are you fighting despair and hopelessness?

11. Do you have a story of healing and being brought out of the valley?

12. Is there someone who you can encourage and pray for as she struggles in her valley?

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Next Tuesday, we are sharing OUR faith in the valley stories. Anyone who wants to share should write her story as 700 words or fewer. You can read it to the group from what you’ve written. That is the only way that everyone will have time. If you’d like to share your story on the blog, email it to me at katrina@katrinaryder.com and I can publish it too.

 I can’t wait to hear your stories!

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