Buried deep in each of our hearts are hidden places—scarred places, with unseen wounds. We try to cover them with busyness, or cast them aside as unimportant to silence their pain. But no matter what we do, they are still there.
We find brief accounts of similar suffering in the lives of several unnamed women in the New Testament Gospels. In their desperate longing for healing and love and truth, they met Jesus. Biblical glimpses of these women have now been enlarged into stories that bring these women to life. Their circumstances were different, but their need was the same.
Whether you are just beginning your walk with Jesus Christ or have been on the road with Him for a long time, take a look at these women in the Gospels in a new and fresh way. What if their stories happened like this? The wide range of their circumstances invites each of us to identify with them in some way. Each woman has a message for us today. Come and listen to what they have to say, and meet the One they found is the answer.
It is the Sabbath, and she is all alone as she struggles to wrap her garment around her bent body. She cannot quite get the cloth to drape properly anymore, no matter how hard she tries. The harder she tries, the more pain she encounters. She pauses for a moment to let the pain subside. Her mind goes back to the time long ago when getting dressed was effortless, when she went through her days with ease and pleasure. Those days began to disappear shortly after the death of her husband eighteen years ago when this affliction began to descend, turning her once comfortable life into one where even getting dressed is a difficult chore. When hidden tears threaten to form, she takes a deep breath and returns to her painful struggle with the garment. It is as if her body has turned against her and become the enemy as she fights to do even the simplest tasks. Sometimes she worries what she will do when those tasks become impossible. There is no answer to that question in her mind. Hunched over, her view of the world around her has narrowed until all she can easily see is the ground that her feet pass over as she slowly shuffles along to the synagogue. She has had to give up many things over the years as this infirmity has taken such a firm hold on her life, but she will not give up her worship on the Sabbath. She loves God with her whole heart. The law and its commands are engraved on her mind, and she has strived to follow every letter of it throughout her life. In the past her obedience to the law was a source of great pride. However, she has been humbled during this eighteen-year ordeal. She has had to depend on God in ways that she never dreamed of doing before, and she has found him to be faithful. Her love for God has grown and deepened despite her ongoing hardship, and her faith has not wavered. She refuses to feel sorry for herself. Since this is the path that God has chosen for her, she will accept it from his hand without complaint and will continue to worship him. No one pays any attention anymore to the stooped woman as she enters the synagogue. They are used to seeing her, and they know that she is a righteous woman. Her presence, though, is an awkward reminder because it seems that God has stopped blessing her for her righteousness, and they have no explanation for the apparent punishment of her suffering. Therefore, the people avoid her, not wanting to engage her in conversation, fearing they might be confronted with unanswerable questions. Their silent judgment brings a different kind of pain, but she has grown used to being ignored and does not blame them for their actions. She reminds herself that she probably would have reacted the same way once. As Jesus begins speaking, she listens attentively, aware of the controversy concerning him. His teaching on mercy and forgiveness is in contrast to the strict rules that she was taught by the Jewish leaders and has always followed faithfully. She is intrigued by his words. Her mind wrestles with these new thoughts, wondering if she can believe what Jesus is saying. Jesus slowly looks around the synagogue as he speaks, silently dismayed at the hardness of the hearts of the people surrounding him. He seeks even one soul who is open to his message of love and life. All he sees are skepticism and rejection written on the faces. His eyes finally rest upon a woman sitting alone in the back of the room. Seeing her, Jesus knows of her many years of pain as she has struggled against a body that has been increasingly bent and broken. Beyond her physical infirmity, he sees a woman who has devoted her entire life to earnestly obeying the law, striving to please God from a heart that is no longer proud, but filled with love. Jesus is so overcome with love for this woman that he stops teaching and calls out to her to come forward to him. Surprised by his invitation, she is bewildered and wonders for a moment if she has heard him correctly. She soon realizes that all eyes are upon her, so she slowly gets up and makes her way toward Jesus. As the crowd opens up space for her to pass by, they are wondering what Jesus could possibly want with her. When she reaches Jesus, he bends down to look into her eyes. She sees such depth of love that she is transfixed by his gaze. The room is silent as he says to her, "Woman, you are freed from your infirmity," and lays his hands upon her. Immediately she feels great warmth in her body at his touch. Suddenly his hands are gently lifting her hands until she is standing upright, looking into his face with tears streaming down her cheeks. She begins praising God for his mercy upon her as the people around her burst forth in astonishment. Indignant over this transgression of the law, the ruler of the synagogue quickly turns and lifts his voice in order to be heard over the murmuring of the people. "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day." Instantly Jesus answers him. "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger, and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?"
Born out of Anita Blough Smith’s quiet times with God and woven together with insight and compassion from her own life experiences, Unnamed Women is a testimony of how God brings beauty from ashes. A transplant from Illinois, Anita has made her home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for more than forty years.