Filling the Persistent Void
Finding fullness of life in Christ
A choir sings the lyrics of Radiohead’s “Creep” as images digitize on screen. Photos of smiling teens appear followed in rapid succession by images of weddings, new babies, and dances. It’s the trailer to the 2010 film “The Social Network,'' depicting a glamorous Hollywood tale of how Facebook entered our world and the seismic shift in media began.
At the very heart of creating social networks was the goal of filling a single void: the desire to be seen. What started as a way for college kids to discover new friends, rapidly expanded to an entire globe looking to have their minute-by-minute emotions affirmed.
But after nearly 20 years of pouring ourselves out online, the desire to be seen, recognized, and wanted persists. Even for those of us who don’t turn to social media, we too work to fill the void elsewhere — whether it be through our workplace, spouses, or kids. In the end, no matter how many places we search, we’re never fulfilled.
In Mark 5, the Bible introduces us to a woman suffering from a terrible condition. It’s not clear the diagnosis, but what we do know is she had been bleeding for twelve years. She spent all she had on finding a diagnosis and treatment, visiting doctor after doctor but to no avail. Rather than getting better, her suffering grew worse.
In addition to the physical burden, the woman also carried with her societal shame. In her culture, blood was a sign of being “unclean.” As a result, she would need to be isolated from others, including those in her own family. A person who bleeds would be unfit to be seen in public. She was an outcast in her own society.
Desperate for a solution, she decided to take an enormous risk. She heard rumors about a healer named Jesus, and in faith, she began to seek him out. When she spots Christ in a crowd, she takes action, squeezing herself into a steady stream of people. This was a radical decision given her lowly, shameful social status. She inches her way closer to Christ’s presence. As she nears him, she reaches out her hand believing, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” (Mark 5:28)
The woman’s instincts were right. She touches his garment, and she’s instantly healed. In the midst of the crowd, Christ immediately turns around searching for her. “Who touched my garments?” he asks (Mark 5:30). The disciples look at him puzzled. The crowd was pressing in all around them, and there was no way to know who had touched him.
As the woman steps forward, and in the middle of this crowded place, Christ acknowledges her and praises her publicly for her faith. This is an incredible moment in a society where women were largely dismissed, devalued, and treated like mere property. It’s an even more incredible moment for a woman who had been an outcast in her community for more than a decade. Jesus wasn’t simply recognizing her faith, he was making a public presentation of that recognition.
Through this event, God healed the woman, but more importantly, he removed the societal shame her condition created. She came for physical healing, but Christ’s recognition of her in the crowd spoke to the deeper, unexpressed healing she desired. In that moment, she was seen, recognized, and loved by God in a radically counter-cultural way.
No other person or thing on Earth has the power God does to see well beyond our surface needs and fulfill our deepest desires so completely. In John 6:35 Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” In Christ, every void is filled, and in his death and resurrection, all our shame is removed.
After twelve years of suffering, the woman in Mark put all her faith and trust in God — believing in him that her deepest desire would be fulfilled. The question is: are we willing to do the same?
Dominique McKay is a Women's Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C.