Have you ever been misdiagnosed? You go to a doctor, and they tell you that this is the diagnosis, but you feel in your heart that it is not right. That is not the right answer. Or you realize in your body that your body is not responding to this. When we are misdiagnosed, a whole lot of things can happen to us. There can be confusion. There can be a sense of shame as you wonder why you are not getting better? There could be a sense of paralysis as you think about how you are trying everything and you are not getting better. There could be anger as you wonder why you are not getting better? Surely there is frustration. You know you are doing everything you are supposed to do by following the doctor’s advice. Still, you are not getting better.
If this has ever happened to you, you know what a painful, frustrating, and difficult experience it is to be misdiagnosed. If you have been misdiagnosed and later diagnosed correctly, you realize that probably something inside you told you that was not right. Now you realize that you have been diagnosed correctly, and you receive the right treatment. The next thing you know, everything works. Everything is healed. There is probably a part of you that says, “Why did I go through that? Why was I misdiagnosed?” There might even be a self-condemnation like, “Why did I not see it? Or why did I not stand up for myself more before the doctors?”
This happens frequently. It has probably happened at least once in your life or maybe more times in your life. The woman in the gospel today suffered for twelve years, and it is interesting because the gospel says, “She suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors.” So, the doctors themselves were causing her suffering.
An older woman I know has Lyme Disease. She probably had it since she was a young teenager, and a decade of her life went by where she could not get the diagnosis. She actually worked for one of our major hospitals, and that hospital system would not test her for Lyme Disease. They said, “Oh, you cannot possibly have that after a certain amount of time. Not possible.” She had to go out on her own and spend thousands of dollars to get these tests done. She discovered that she has been suffering for twelve years, and it was all because she had Lyme Disease and was misdiagnosed. It was unfortunate because she kept telling the doctors, “This is not right. This is not working.” The doctors would say to her, “It has to. There is no Lyme Disease.” Then she actually felt shame. She felt ashamed that she did not have the right answer, and the doctors were making her feel bad because she had a feeling about what was wrong. She knew that what was happening was not working. So, she herself suffered for many years at the hands of some of the greatest doctors we have in the world.
I do not say this to condemn doctors because doctors do amazing things for us, which is a necessary part of our healing. If anybody has experienced being misdiagnosed or not helped by a doctor, we realize that sometimes doctors cannot figure it out. We realize that doctors are human. We come to the realization, too, that our bodies are far more mysterious than we think.
I was talking to another girl, a parishioner, and her mother was told that she would never walk or talk at the time of her birth. She walks and talks today. I have experienced being misdiagnosed and told that it might be this or to try this antibiotic, and it does not work. It is a terrifying thing not to know how to be healed or how to get help. There is a clinical psychologist that I know who has misdiagnosed himself. He prescribed the wrong medication, and it put him out for a year. For a year of his life, he was incapable of doing anything because of a misdiagnosis. Yet it happens.
So, what are we to make of this when it happens to us? I was praying with this gospel this week. In the last couple of weeks, we heard about Jesus walking, going across the sea, calming the storms, and bringing peace over chaos. The sea was always known to be chaos. So, the sea was represented as an uncontrolled thing. You cannot manage it because it does what it wants to do, but Jesus was able to calm the storm. He worked an act of God. The disciples were terrified. They were afraid, “Lord, please wake up. Help us. Why will you not help us? Do you not care?”
Now they get to the other side of the shore, and something interesting happens. A phrase here says, “When they crossed again to the other side, Jesus remains.” He stayed close to the sea. The disciples were terrified of the sea. They probably wanted to get away from it. Runaway from it. Jesus stays close to the sea. Why is that? Why was that phrase used here? Remember, the sea represents chaos. It represents sin. It represents evil. It represents death, and Jesus stayed by the sea because Jesus often meets us right there in the chaos and the suffering and the sin and the things that we cannot control. Jesus is there at the threshold.
We hear about this woman who has had this hemorrhage for twelve years, suffering at the hands of many doctors. Jesus is walking through the crowd. He is going to heal a man. That is what his purpose was, and the crowd is so big that He can barely move. Nearby is this woman who has been suffering for twelve years. When a woman was hemorrhaging, she was exiled. She was not allowed to be near other people because they were afraid of disease or something like that, so she was exiled. Yet, this woman ran into the crowd because she was so driven to get help. She was willing to throw herself into the crowd. She knew if she could only touch Him that she would be healed. So, she touches Him, and she is healed. He feels the power go out, and He says, “Who touched me?” The woman knew Jesus had the power to heal her. She knew the doctors were not going to heal her. She knew nobody else was going to heal her. She knew she would continue suffering for the rest of her life unless she could touch Him.
Why does suffering happen to us? Why did she suffer for that many years? There was something about that suffering that gave her the courage that gave her the drive, giving her the ability to go into the crowd and touch Jesus. When we suffer, it sometimes takes us a while to realize Jesus is the one that can heal us.
It is good to trust doctors, but sometimes they fail. We put our hope in treatment or in drugs or whatever it may be, and they fail. That desperation forces us to go to Jesus. Remember, He is a threshold. He is right by the sea. He is right there by the suffering and the chaos and the disorder and the confusion. That is where He wants to meet us.
If you are suffering in some way in your life, or you have a spouse that is suffering maybe with cancer or some kind of disease, or maybe with something that has been troubling them with something for years, and you have not been able to figure it out – take them to Jesus. Come to Jesus. Receive the Eucharist. Go to Him in adoration.
Ultimately, we hear we should go to Jesus if we suffer to the point of even death. So, the young girl was twelve years old and died. Even then, it was not too late for Jesus. Even then, He stood at the threshold of the sea of chaos, of sin, of death, and He meets her right there on the deathbed and raises her from the dead.
What we can understand by this is that Jesus can heal us when nobody else can. When you have been told you are never going to be able to walk again. When you have been told that you will have this for the rest of your life, whatever that may be, Jesus does have the power to heal us. The wonderful thing is sometimes it takes our suffering to get us to Him.
I had a father that told me recently that his kids are away from the church – three of them. He said to me, “Father, how do I get my kids to come back to the faith?” I just said off the top of my head, “Do you want them to meet Jesus now, or do they have to really, really suffer before they meet Him?” It is one or the other. I think God allows suffering because sometimes only when we suffer and are crippled to the point of exhaustion do we finally go to Him, and that can even be at the moment of death. Somebody could have gone their whole life resisting the Lord, turning from Him, and then the moment of death might be the moment that they reach out to Him.
Realize that sometimes in our lives, we suffer. Sometimes in our lives, we are misdiagnosed, and it is a confusing and painful thing. It is a difficult thing. It is a horrible thing, but Jesus stands right there by the sea. He is at the point of suffering, He is at the point of death, and often, we meet Him. Hopefully, we are with Him before that happens, but if we are away or your children are away, we can always count on that. We can count on suffering, and we can count on death. That is where the Lord will meet us.
So, if we have been misdiagnosed, go to the Divine Physician and let Jesus heal us.