Beneath the Surface

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

We each have a personal testimony of how God has led in our lives. My story is of how I’ve found God to be my brother and closest friend in the midst of pain and sorrows.

I was born into an Orthodox Jewish family where we tried to follow all the laws. My parents were seeking after God because my father had cancer. There were four of us all together, including my older brother. The stress of physical illness, financial strain, and mental illness affected each of us differently. For me, I dealt with it by trying to control what I could and striving to fulfill myself through achievements – academically and by serving others. My parents in their search for spiritual healing explored Christianity. The three of us were baptized when I was nine at our local Baptist church. My father did pass away when I was thirteen, after battling cancer for over twenty years, but only after he found spiritual healing.

I wanted to follow God from a young age, but it was largely head knowledge and not so much heart knowledge. During high school, my mom and I became members of the Seventh-day Adventist church. However, it was not until college that I met different Christian friends who had real, transformative relationships with God, and I saw how He had personally changed their lives. It was during this time that I fully committed my life to God. I wanted Him to lead my life but didn’t yet understand how to turn all my past baggage over to Him.

One thing I’ve learned when looking back on growing up is that it is okay to ask God where He was, especially in the difficult and painful circumstances. When I didn’t understand why my dad’s cancer kept coming back no matter how much I prayed, it was ok to ask Him why. Some may think it is wrong to ask God this question, but I believe that God wants to hear our pains and joys. He also wants to show us how He was and always will be right here beside us (Psalm 139:1-7). That He is near to us when we are brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).

Although I may not have all the answers, I do know that during the painful times of my father passing away and when mental illness took its toll in my family’s life, God was there. He was recording my tears. He was holding me close. I’ve also learned God wanted me to cry out then.

I made the mistake of just pushing away the painful emotions. I never let anyone know how I was really feeling. I hid myself behind good behavior and academic achievements. Did these walls draw me closer to God? Is that what God calls us to do? To put on a happy Christian face and never share our real burdens and struggles? Doesn’t the Bible say:

Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

John 14:1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.

Doesn’t that mean I am to put on a happy face and never share what’s really going on? I don’t think that is what God is saying at all in these verses. In fact, I believe that Satan wants us to never share these pains and hurts because when we share with God and others we might find healing. Instead, Satan wants us stuck in our pains and woes.

I must honestly say that for most of these pains and hurts that I shoved deep down it’s only in the past 1-2 years that I’ve found relief and healing from many of them. I’ve found this partly through learning to identify and express them and let God help me sort through them. And I still am learning! I’ve acknowledged the deep pain in my heart. It’s okay to simply acknowledge these things and cry out to God. I can stop pretending they don’t affect me. I can stop trying to fix them myself by pretending they don’t exist.

I have learned to share my pains with God and ask why. This doesn’t mean there is always an answer. There may never be an answer this side of eternity for some things other than the fact that we live in a sinful world. Although this may seem to leave us far from comforted, the fact that God does not just have sympathy from afar but came to this Earth and experienced our pains himself does bring me comfort. God can identify with my deepest pains (Hebrews 2:17, 18; 4:14-16). Christ’s victorious life, even in the midst of pain and woe, shows us we can have victory too. It is by His stripes and pains that we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

Jesus can identify with the pain of separation from my father when he died because He experienced separation from His father. Jesus knows what it is to want to be free from pain and burdens, as He cried out in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knows what it is to witness people suffering from physical and mental illness and to feel sorrow because of it. He can understand the pain I experience when I see that the ones I love suffer.

Through my pains and hurts I’ve learned that Jesus is my brother and my dearest friend. That He wants to be close beside me in all that I may experience on this Earth. Whether joys or pains, He wants to hear and to walk with me through them.

For a video of this testimony, plus more of Miriam’s story, visit: https://youtu.be/X6381ACclL4
Miriam Bernstein is a social worker who has fallen in love with counseling. Currently she is living in Thailand as she works for the next five months with Adventist Frontier Missions. She loves walking with people on their healing journey because of the emotional healing she has received from Christ. Being part of an honest and authentic Christian community is important to her because she believes it’s within community that we can experience God’s healing love. You can find her current blog here: http://www.afmonline.org/missionaries/detail/4444

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