"Your faith has made you well."
- Luke 8:49
This is not an instance of "faith healing," as the false prophets term their scam miracle orgies. "If only you have enough faith, if only your faith is strong enough," they say, "You will be healed." The prosperity preachers and televangelists, similarly, claim, "If you only have enough faith, God will grant you riches" or "He will mend your marriage." This foolishness has taken hold in America, where our individualistic, self-centered, consumeristic culture has taught us to view religion as a commodity, faith as a self-made virtue; "only make yourself believe harder," these false prophets say, "and your desires will be fulfilled." How easy to take passages like these and use them in support of this heresy! How simple to deceive the people by twisting the Word of God!
A closer look at this passage shatters the illusion of this interpretation. Luke does not tell the reader how strong of a faith this woman possessed. In fact, by noting that she had gone from doctor to doctor, spending all her living to no avail, Luke suggests that this may have merely been a last resort, a shot in the dark, a last hope for some miracle to bestow salvation. And what a miracle came! Though she merely touched the hem of Jesus' cloak, this woman was healed fully and immediately. Was this the expected result? Did she have unshakable faith that Christ could heal her, or was her faith flawed, desperate, broken, despairing? Though Luke does not specify, the latter seems more likely for this woman, driven by desperation to the only possible source of healing left known to her. Would this be another of the quack physicians who would take advantage of her, demanding her money and then failing to assist her? How could she know? And yet, her desperation drove her to Jesus.
We also must be like this woman, flying to Christ for aid in all trouble, begging merely to touch the hem of his cloak in the faith that He can make us well. Do not wait until you believe your faith to be strong enough before you seek the Lord. Do not wait to be free from sin before you beg forgiveness. For the strength of God is revealed in weakness; He soothes our fears and calms our doubts. Will Christ cast away the weak when they come to Him? Will He begrudge healing for the one who is not sure whether healing is possible? Surely not, for this is not merely the Savior who tested the Syrophoenician woman and declared her faith greater than that of any in Israel, but also the Savior who healed the son of the man who cried "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" He will not cast away the tortured, despairing, weak, doubting, sinful, sorrowful, flawed soul that comes to Him, for "a bruised weed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out."
Indeed, this woman's faith did make her well, as our faith makes us well, but we must not be deceived as to believe that its efficacy is derived from its potency. Both the strong and the weak, the firm and the wavering, are justified through faith. Christ speaks "your faith has made you well" both to the certain and the uncertain. For faith is not a work of our doing, but a gift of God. Our faith does not depend on how strongly we cling to God, but upon how strongly He clings to us. That, truly, is faith: when Christ clings to His child as a mother clings to hers; our faith is in His hands, not in ours. For what faith has a child in the mother who abandons him? But if the mother clings to her child and holds him in her arms, he has faith in her, not as a work of his own, but because of the love that his mother gives him. So it is with the believer and Christ, for "we are weak but He is strong," and his strength shows itself in weakness.
The faith of the woman in this passage made her well because it drove her to Jesus. And is that not what faith does? Just as the child cries for His mother, so we cry to Christ in the day of trouble. It matters not whether we are certain concerning His aid, whether we have learned to fully trust Him (and have any of us?) or whether our trust is faltering, doubting, often bitter and angry, asking "why, Lord?" and finding no answer. It does not matter how we feel. Faith drives us to Christ, desperate and full of longing, doubting and complaining. We doubt whether He can save us. We doubt whether He is really there. And yet faith drives us to Him all the same, for He will not let us go. Though we feel distant from Him, though we pray to Him feeling as if we only address a projection of our own desire, He listens and answers nonetheless. Faith is not about how much we are able to trust God. It is not about how close we feel to Him. It is not about how little doubt we have. Faith drives us to Christ. Weary, torn, and helpless we come to Him, and He will give us rest.