Just then a woman who had hemorrhaged for twelve years slipped in from behind and lightly touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can just put a finger on his robe, I’ll get well.” Jesus turned—caught her at it. Then he reassured her: “Courage, daughter. You took a risk of faith, and now you’re well.” The woman was well from then on.
Encourage means to stand by someone, to help them take the next step. There are so many things to adore about the story of the woman who reached for the dusty, road-walked fringe of a robe. Picture in your mind the crowds pushing in—the noise, the dirt, and the skeptics’ watchful eyes. And then, listen as Jesus says “courage” to a woman longing to be whole. He says it because he is giving it. He says it left his body when he healed the woman who had been bleeding for years.
I believe that’s what happens when we encourage others. We give a portion of our own courage to someone else. We empty ourselves to fill them. Courage strengthens backs, legs, hands, and hearts. It gives us fresh breath and wings to fly.
Wings to fly. To soar.
Those who are stumbling are stabilized when we give courage away.
Those who are running well are refreshed when we give courage away.
Those who can’t take another step are renewed when we give courage away.
I wonder how many doctors saw the woman, listened to her description, and did their best to determine what was wrong. How many prescriptions was she given to make things better; how many conflicting diagnoses did she hear; how many times did she hear the whispers of “crazy” or “bringing this on herself” or “all in her head.” She must have felt every emotion over the 12 years of her affliction. She must have blamed everything and everyone—including God and herself—at least once when things didn’t get better. Chances are, things did get better for short seasons, and her hope grew—only to be dashed when the blood started flowing again. She must have felt so much shame, must have felt so alone wondering, Is there anyone at all like me in this world? At some point she may have simply wished she could disappear, because existing, yet invisible, is painful.
I wish we knew what happened to her after she had taken Jesus’ courage and felt the cheer rise within her, what happened after the bleeding stopped and destroyed her shame. I wonder how many people doubted her story, how many doctors tried to take credit for something only Love could do, how often the “crazy” or “bringing this on herself” or “all in her head” thoughts came back to steal the truth?
I believe that she learned the power of taking—and giving—courage.
Catholics gave the woman a name. They called her Veronica. It means “true image.” It also means “she who brings victory.” I know every meaning, because it’s my given name too. I think about those meanings often and pray my life will one day reflect them fully.
Maybe we’re all Veronica—all carrying questions with no answers, pain with no quick relief, scars and stains and shame. And while we’re looking for someone to fix it all, Jesus says to us, “Here, love, take my courage and watch what happens.”
Jesus didn’t promise Veronica’s life would be perfect, but he allowed her to see who she was created to be. And the bleeding stopped.
Why did the Catholics give her a name that means “true image”? Perhaps because she painted a picture of what it means to risk it all for a glorious unknown. Or perhaps because she also painted the true picture of Christ in that moment when her bloodied hand grabbed his dust-stained hem. Mosaic law would render Jesus unclean in that moment. Her touch would damage his good name.
And yet, Jesus poured out power to Veronica.
Scripture says so matter-of-factly that she was healed. But it doesn’t talk about what normal then looked like for her. How did she respond to a life she hadn’t known for more than a decade? What was it like to be unbroken?
What if Veronica was healed, only to discover new pain? What if the bleeding stopped entirely, rendering her unable to bear children or ripping holes in a still-too-tender heart? What if not bleeding at all was as damaging as bleeding all the time? My eyes fill with tears when I think about the possibility that she may have been yet considered unclean or unwanted. I think about my own journey, of a surgery that removed disease from my body—and along with it the ability to bear children. The one answer to prayer became a million more questions, a million more prayers.
What if, in her new normal, she soon lost her courage because she didn’t tend to it? What if, after the one beautiful moment, there were no more moments? What if the healing opened her eyes to deeper suffering all around her—suffering she could not bear? What if the veil she wore when she saw Jesus carrying the cross was a veil to hide her pain?
Or what if the new normal led to arrogance and entitlement? What if she became unkind because of the kindness shown her?
Would it have been better then to keep bleeding, to keep clinging to even the smallest thread of better days, than for the better days to come and to find out they are still full of questioning, struggle, and waiting?
Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well” on that day on the road with the crowds and the skeptics. What happens when faith struggles to be faithful, not because it is small or doubtful or immature, but because it’s simply weary? What if she had no faith that day and saw touching Jesus’ hem as merely the next thing to do in the long list of things that might work?
Did Jesus reward her for her bold confidence, or did he give her the very faith she needed to risk in the first place?
My mind asks so many questions, because I have been every possible Veronica. I’ve taken courage, tasted grace, been made well. And I’ve been the grateful, the skeptic, the wonderer, and the wanderer. I have felt pride rise and hope crumble.
And yet, Jesus poured out power to Veronica. And to me.
Maybe Veronica’s real healing came not in touching Jesus’ hem but in the months and years that followed in a still-bleeding world. Maybe that’s when our true image is revealed—not in one beautiful moment, but in living, questioning, and laboring as we carry with us a glimpse of glory.
Jesus poured out his power that day, allowed it to be taken. He became stained with Veronica’s blood and poured out his own blood for her. He didn’t demand anything of her beyond that moment— he just revealed his true image and gave her courage.
And he keeps doing it. Jesus pours out courage in us and through us—misfit incarnations bearing his image and glimpses of glory. Healing comes. Pieces of it stay. More healing comes. Bit by smallest bit. Sometimes in healing pools, sometimes in mud, sometimes in a bite of bread, sometimes in just the sitting and listening.
Jesus says, “Don’t demand. Just pour. Just give courage. Be glimpses of glory.”
Glimpses of glory, Veronica. A precious, true image.
In Catholic tradition, Veronica appeared again. She saw Jesus carrying the cross to Golgotha and gave him her veil so that he might wipe his bloodied brow with it. If that’s true, perhaps she longed to give courage to the one who had so selflessly given his courage to her.
We are Veronica. And we are learning to take, and give, courage.
Click here to order the Hem Of His Garment painting by Wayne Pascall.