Sustaining Hope in the Midst of Anxiety

“There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly.” – Mark 5:25-26

My anxiety is hemorrhaging out of me. Over time I have learned to deal with my triggers in more effective ways. But some days, like today, it hemorrhages. It bleeds into my prayer, it floods my mind, it drowns my judgment. I am trying to put a bandaid over it, but it is too late, and nothing can stop this hemorrhage. 

In many situations, I can roll with the punches and cope with whatever challenges come my way. But not when it comes to vomit… As luck would have it, the very week I signed up to write on the topic of anxiety, a nasty bug has knocked us down. I am an armchair epidemiologist, tracking case numbers and incubation periods of a stomach virus I cannot defeat. The data analysis gives me something to fixate on. There have been moments of fear, helplessness, and self-doubt. I have had flashbacks to the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown, and yet this time I am alone, hemorrhaging anxiety. 

The afflicted woman had spent all her money on doctors that could not cure her. For 12  years she sought answers. Yet somehow she did not lose hope. I will admit, I have felt very hopeless these past two weeks… so what hope have I clung to? 

“She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” – Mark 5:27-28

The recent Disney movie Encanto features a Colombian family with gifts that help their community. The main character, Mirabel’s mom, has the ability to heal injuries and illnesses with her homemade cakes and breads. “The truth is she can heal you with a meal, her recipes are remedies for real.” As the children have cycled through days on the couch in the past two weeks, I have watched this movie and listened to the accompanying soundtrack more times than I can count. How many times I have wished for a magical bread that cured all of our illnesses! 

I wished for that magical cure while my 5-year-old received IV fluids in the waiting room of the emergency room. I wished for it again when I picked up the third prescription for my two year old within a week when he developed two secondary infections after the initial illness.  I wished for it again when the one child that seemed to have escaped the illness came down with it a full week after the other two. 

Somewhere about the 1000th time I heard the catchy phrase “my mom Julieta can make you feel better with just one arepa” (a bread made with cornmeal) in Encanto, I realized that Jesus does continue to offer me a special nourishment along the way. While the Bread of Life that Jesus offers may not instantaneously heal a broken bone or sick tummy, it does offer me hope that no matter what happens I will be okay. 

All week I have remained with the woman afflicted by hemorrhages. I am with her as she reaches out to touch the cloak of Jesus. I summon her courage, her unfailing faith that to touch even the fringes of Jesus’ person has the power to bring healing. 

In the face of a bout of anxiety, my prayer is not a steady, clear profession of faith. Hope is a lingering glance, the flutter of my fingertips on His cloak, the smallest kernel of trust that no matter what, Jesus will still be with me.

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Photo by Adrien King on 


Jen Coito was Jesuit-educated in Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. She has a Masters in Pastoral Theology with a specialization in Spiritual Direction. After working for the California Province of Jesuits and Christian Life Community, Jen and Fr. Tri Dinh, S.J co-founded Christus Ministries, an outreach that bridges young adults and the Church through service, retreats, and leadership formation experiences. Jen also serves the Sisters of Notre Dame in California as the Associate Director of Mission Advancement. Daily life involves juggling her work with awesome nuns and the constant stream of activities with her husband Jason and three children.

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