Updated: Feb 22
Finding God's Purpose Through Your Pain
Part 1: My Testimony
I was born into a Christian home. When I was young, my father surrendered to preach and became the head pastor of a Hispanic Church in Florida.
I remember one particular Sunday, a man approached me after the service and he told me that I needed to act differently than the other girls at my church. "Because you are the Pastor's daughter," was the only explanation I was ever given. That stuck with me.
And so... I tried. I really did. I worked hard to make sure I always dressed the part, first of all. Secondly, I used my gift of music in ministry and would often sing from the pulpit. Thirdly, I became one of the most Biblically knowledgable kids in the church. Nevermind the fact that when I got to school I dressed in all black, cussed like a sailor, and gravitated towards the most rebellious people in the class.
At the age of twelve I got called into the Guidance Counsellor's office because a classmate overheard me ask someone if they would miss me if I were dead.
Looking back, I realize I was dealing with childhood depression. Any time I was alone, I felt the need to cry. I took little interest in my appearance and didn't have any true friends. I was bullied by my group of 'friends' and made to feel less-than, but rather than let them see me cry, I put on a smile and pretended to go along with it because it really didn't bother me.
My writing became the talk of the youth group when they read a piece I'd written where I described in great detail coughing up blood and being dragged by my hair into a fiery pit by none other than a demon. I'd even drawn a picture to accompany the piece which I'd eloquently titled: "Hell."
Everything changed in the summer before my eighth-grade year. I'd just turned fourteen and for the first time in my life, I truly understood the gospel of Christ.
I'd been standing during the invitation (the part of the church service when the pastor invites people to come to the front for prayer or to dedicate their lives to God), and all I could think was: "Yeah, yeah. I've heard all of this stuff before." What I didn't expect was a reply.
Holy Spirit: You're not saved.
Me: "What do you mean, 'I'm not saved'? I believe Jesus died on the cross. I believe He rose from the dead. I'm saved!"
Holy Spirit: Sonya, if you were to die right now, you would go to Hell.
Looking back now, I realize I was arguing with the Holy Spirit. But at the time, all I could really feel was the weight of the sin on my shoulders.
For the first time in my life, I realized that I. Was. Guilty.
I felt dirtier than the inside of a toilet at a gas station public bathroom. My sin, all of a sudden felt like so much more than I could bear, and there was no further hesitation as, through tears, I made my way to the altar and fell on my knees before the great I AM.
I don't remember what I prayed, but all I know is that when I stood up from that place, I was walking away JUSTIFIED!
My first years as a believer, I was on fire. I had to tell everyone about my Jesus and the experience I'd had with Him. My struggles came to take on a new meaning. From time to time I still fell into the habit of watching pornography, but those times were always followed by grief over my sin and repentance.
Then, at the age of sixteen, I started to date my first boyfriend.
After crossing too many boundaries to count, I cried out to God, knowing that I was in over my head.
I remember telling Him, "Lord, I can't break up with him. If you want us to be broken up, You have to do it."
The next day, my parents stepped in.
Even through all of my teenage angst and the ups and downs I experienced as a newborn Christian, I always felt the hand of God upon my life, leading me, guiding me, calling me to Himself. That is the reason why, although I'd graduated with honors, my one and only choice for college was Clearwater Christian College.
I was accepted into the school, but the weekend before class, after my books and class schedule had already arrived in the mail, my finances fell through when the family that had offered to sponsor me got some negative medical news. I was devastated to know that they would no longer be able to pay my tuition.
Distraught and with nowhere else to turn, I remembered meeting a girl in summer camp who had mentioned being accepted into Emmaus Baptist College, a small seminary out of Brandon, Florida. I wasted no time in finding her information and asking if she would be alright with me rooming with her if my application was accepted. By the following week, I was at the registration office. I'd gotten in.
It was there, at Bible College, the place I'd gone to dedicate my life to the ministry of Christ, where I met Satan for the first time.
I couldn't for the life of me understand why I was struggling so much.
One night I woke to the feeling of someone or something standing over me accusingly. Before I knew what was happening, I was standing at the kitchen counter, emptying a bottle of pills into my hand. I felt numb, but in a moment of clarity, I realized I didn't want to die. I whispered, "Lord, help me." And then, as if Jesus Himself, was carrying out the motion, I emptied the pills back into the bottle and retreated to my bedroom.
When I awoke the next morning, I lay under the covers, my eyelids chapped from crying, listening to myself breathe, and relieved that I'd made it through the night.
Thoughts of suicide became as common as my breakfast. I couldn't understand why I was going through this, but as soon as the staff caught wind of one of my more serious attempts, they helped me get the help I so desperately needed.
I was diagnosed with dysthimia, a long-term chronic depression which would go on to taint six years of my life. On my third year, one week into classes starting, my parents came to visit me on campus and ask me to come home. Defeated and confused, I left Bible College, and went back home, unsure of where my life would take me from there.
I felt guilty. I'd earned a reputation in high school and college as being this social butterfly; a happy, bubbly Christian who was always more than eager to please. But as I navigated my life with chronic depression, I started to feel fake. This all stemmed from a misunderstanding about what it truly meant to be Christ-like.
Part 2: God's Purpose For Your Pain (and mine)
Matthew 5:16 New King James Version (NKJV)
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
I grew up singing “This Little Light of Mine, I’m going to let it shine." Do you remember that song? Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Here’s the thing about that song:
As cute as it is, it lacks a certain level of doctrinal depth.
Jesus said “you are the light of the world,” right? But what I never knew is what exactly was it that made me "shine."
We know that when we get saved we become children of light. That’s easy enough. But what does that really mean?
I used to think that shining my light meant being a cute smiley Christian, but do you see something wrong with that picture? Jesus was anything but cute.
Oftentimes we have this image of an easy-going, Free Hugs for everyone hippie Jesus, but that is NOT the Jesus of the Bible.
Jesus is Strong, he is unwavering, He is Powerful, Mighty. You ever wonder why? I mean the easy answer is: Well, ‘cause He’s God. But have you ever taken the time to get to know what the Bible tells us about Jesus’ character?
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4Surely He took on our infirmities and carried our sorrows; yet we considered Him stricken by God, struck down and afflicted. Isaiah 53:3-4
He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.
He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they sneer and shake their heads:
I want to invite you to take a look at the following verse with me:
Romans 5: 1-4
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace (the unmerited, undeserved favor of God) wherein we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
And not only so, but we glory (boast, rejoice) in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience (endurance);
And patience, experience (character); and experience, hope (confidence, expectation):
Grace: the free and unmerited (not deserved) favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
In the mountain tops, we get to experience His glory, but it’s in the valleys that we get to become His glory.
We are promised tribulation as Christians, but our Heavenly Father is the God of all Hope.
Not only can we rejoice and have hope because of the Glory of God, but we can rejoice also in our tribulation because ultimately, tribulation is what makes us more like Him.
Not only will we experience tribulation, but we will also experience growth because of our tribulation!
The only way we can learn to endure is through tribulation.
This endurance perfects our Christian character, it makes us strong, it purifies us, rids us of our weaknesses, and purges us from our sin. The end result is Hope, that joyful expectation. We come to know Him in our tribulation, therefore we come to hope, or, expect with faith, anticipate that whatever He does, it’s going to be good. (Romans 8:28)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Our aim through the pain should always be Christ. Knowing Him. Experiencing Him. It’s all about Him. Tribulation, is what molds us into His likeness and teaches us about His Grace and Favor in our lives.
I was a newlywed when I found out that I was seven weeks pregnant with a little gift from Heaven. We decided to name the baby Agape, greek for "unconditional love," but in the midst of all of our excitement for this new little life to enter into our family, on the weekend before Thanksgiving, I miscarried.
Nothing could have prepared me for the realization that the only time I would ever be able to hold my child, would be as he lay on a sanitary napkin on the palm of my hand, minutes before getting flushed down the toilet.
It was at that moment that a second voice interrupted the storm of darkness and hopelessness that now occupied my mind. It was a Voice I recognized well.
"It's going to be okay. In the mountain or the valley, I will never leave you nor forsake you."
The months that followed were very difficult for us. One month following the miscarriage, I found myself sitting at the edge of my bed, contemplating suicide. My husband owned a gun, but I didn't know where he kept the lock box key, and then, like a dime into the slot of a piggy bank, a vision was deposited into my mind of the exact location where I would find it. Once again, the Enemy was after my life, but I was too grieved to fight it, instead, I dragged my feet to the exact location I'd seen in my mind and reached over to pick up the key. I opened the lock box to find the firearm laying there, fully loaded.
It would be so easy. It would only take one second.
By the grace of God, instead of reaching for it, my hand wrapped around another object, laying only inches from the box. My cell phone.
Me: Get in here. Now.
My husband burst through the bedroom door, only to find me curled up on the ground, inches away from the open lockbox.
A week later we attended a Christian concert where I was prayed over by one of the lead singers of the Christian Group, Refined Souljuz. The lady and I exchanged numbers. The next day I got a text from her.
Emily: "God told me to tell you, 'One Year.'"
Me: One year for what?
Emily: I don't know, but you'd better mark that on your calendar.
On November 2017, thanksgiving week, exactly one year after my miscarriage, Solomon David Fisichella was born.
I never finished my Bible College degree, but there's a difference between book knowledge and actually living out your faith. In my six years of struggling with depression, I learned more than in all of my life prior to that and since.
There is a sweetness experienced only through suffering and pain. A deep, personal connection with Christ that is not attainable otherwise. I suspect I've only just begun to scratch the surface of it, myself. The question remains: Am I willing to endure the pain and suffering of today, knowing that it will ultimately make me more like Him? Even more than that:
Am I willing to raise my hands in worship of the Lord that both gives and takes away, and say in my heart, "Blessed be the name of the Lord"? My response to that question is what will show my true level of faith in the eyes of the Lord.
I want to end with one of my favorite scripture verses, Galatians 2:20
"For I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me."
He died for us, it is our turn to live for Him.
Remember: It is through our trials that we become like Jesus.
Use your time in the valley to get to know Him_ to experience his closeness to you. Ask Him, "Father, what do you want to teach me in this season of my life?" and then wait. Fast. Pray. Come to Him daily, always remembering His promises to you.
'The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all.' Psalms 34:17-19
'For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord , thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. ' Jeremiah 29:11-13
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. ' Romans 8:28