God Is My Healer : Sarah Hong
Deuteronomy 4:7 (ESV)
For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?
I grew up under extremely religious parents. Growing up, all my parents talked about was church and how blessed they were to be believers. They went out of their ways to spend money that we did not have to contribute to the church. And they always took time out of their busy schedule to attend almost every service, prayer meeting, and fellowship. My parents taught me almost everything I know about what it means to be a Christian. They constantly reminded me that God was always with me and that He loved me. Thanks to my upbringing, I would wake up super early on Sundays to go to church with a very eager heart to learn more about Him. For the rest of the week, I would read books filled with Bible stories for hours and pray consistently. I loved and craved it. It was such an amazing feeling to have as a four-year-old.
Although my relationship with God was strong, my relationships with others weren’t. In a span of six years, my family moved to seven different churches. Adapting to new environments was super hard for me, especially when it came to switching churches. It was very difficult for me to build loving bonds with people because once I did, I ended up leaving them. This was especially hard because I knew that the connection with my brothers and sisters in Christ was far more powerful than the ones I built with people from school or elsewhere. I was hurt and my heart grew bitter. But I never blamed God because I loved Him. I knew that wherever I went, He will always be with me.
In second grade, we found a church to stay. I made friends (some of whom I am still friends with), joined praise team, actively participated in church events, volunteered in missions and Vacation Bible Schools, and so much more. But for some reason, I did not feel comfortable. I felt more distant from my church mates, no matter what I did to get closer with them. I felt so invisible to everyone; it was as if no one really cared to know enough about me or spend time with me. When I wanted to talk with someone, I quickly backed away because I felt like I did not fit in. It was also hard for me to be kind to my friends because it seemed as if they lost interest in our friendship. It really broke me when I found out that someone who I considered to be one of my only friends at church distanced herself from me, because she was embarrassed to be around someone who did not have the popularity and looks. I became her last resort whenever she did not have other friends to be around. At that point, I only went to church as a part of my weekly routine. I felt like I didn’t belong there because no one cared about me. My relationship with God worsened. Because I was hurt, I could hardly think of God at all.
After seven years of attending that church, my parents decided to move churches again. As always, they poured their time, energy and money into their new church. Though broken from my past experiences, I looked forward to going to this church because I heard that my other friends were going to attend. Yet my situations started getting worse. My family started to get into brutal fights and arguments about everything; my parents cut ties with almost everyone and distanced themselves from others for months; my sister went astray from God; and I lost all my friends including my best friend who I’ve known for ten years.
With little to no hope left, we decided to leave again and go back to our previous church. My friends, teachers, pastors, and several others seemed happy when I came back. But I was still hurt and felt very empty hearted. I hated going to church on Sundays. No matter how nice and amazing they were, I felt uncomfortable. Even after attending for some time after coming back, I continued to feel the same way as before. The thought of me being in a church was so unbearable even when I made a lot more friends. I still felt very out of place because after settling in, it went back to way it used to be. I felt like I didn’t belong and that absolutely no one cared. I had so many questions: “If we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, why do I not feel loved and accepted by them?” “Why do I still feel like the odd one out?” “Why is it that no one asks me how I’m doing and what I want but would care to listen to the people next to me?” “How can anyone be able to have the heart of Jesus to praise and worship God when they don’t feel love from their family, friends, and community?”
I was confused. How could someone go from having an unbreakable bond with God at such a young age to completely lose interest in Him? At this point, I focused more on the people around me more than Him, and it created a gap that was very hard for me to close. I blamed and cursed Him often for breaking my family, my friendships, my integrity, and so much more. How can someone, who calls Himself healer, create so much loss for me and my family? I hated Him and hated the people around me even more.
Last winter, I went to the youth group retreat as I always do. I dreaded the thought of sitting in my chair for hours, but as soon as the guest pastor started his sermon for the first night, I was so alert. My heart pounded like crazy. He talked about why we are broken and how we can fix our brokenness. I thought, “If this is God’s way of talking to me, why now?” I was really confused but intrigued. For some reason, I had the heart to talk to and get closer with all the youth group members and teachers, and the confidence to confess to my small group about all of my burdens and problems. There were moments I felt alone during retreat, but I used that time to reflect on my sermon notes and pray. This was such a weird feeling because I felt so much assurance after so many years of hatred and isolation. During every sermon, I felt wide awake and eager to learn more, and during every praise session, I sang my heart out with no fear of judgment.
The second night of prayer, the guest pastor told us to pray for our families. The second he put down the microphone, I started to bawl. My eyes started to water continuously, my heart started to ache, and my mouth started to run. I couldn’t help myself but cry with agony and sorrow for the brokenness of my family. I felt sorry towards my parents who pushed me to never give up on God. I realized that I had developed a hatred for them when they were trying to help me with my faith. I also felt sorry towards my younger sister for all the fights we’ve had, which worsened our relationship over time and for her complete disinterest in wanting to know God.
During that night, I also asked God why He has allowed so much suffering in me and my family over the years: Why couldn’t He help me during my darkest times when I really needed Him? Why did He make me develop the incapability to show and accept love from the people around me? Why did He make me leave the people I cared for? Why did He take so long to speak to me? One by one, almost every youth group teacher and even the guest pastor came to pray for me. It was through their prayers where I felt the feeling of warmth. Then, God spoke to me and said, “I’ve been hurt too. It hurts to see you and the people you care like this.” When I heard this, I broke down and repented for blaming Him for all these years. He then compelled me to go to my sister and pray for her. I forgave my sister, my parents, and everyone, and cried for the rest of the night.
During the last prayer night, my small group gathered all the juniors to pray together. I have never ever prayed this hard and this long. I yelled, cried, and screamed. At that moment, I felt assurance. I realized that God has placed these sisters and brothers in my life, and they really love and care for me. I asked for forgiveness for pushing them away and for hating them. This retreat brought us close together.
I knew that this retreat was God’s calling for me to come back to Him. He was knocking on my heart all this time but I kept pushing Him and everyone away. I was so broken and didn’t know why, but He knew exactly how to heal me. He gave me so much joy and restored the love that I had for Him and for everyone around me. He helped me realize that whenever I need help, I can always go to Him because He will never ever leave and fail me. Instead of holding on to the saying, “time heals,” I will hold on to this truth: “God heals.” The faith I first had is now alive again, and I am forever satisfied.
For Your Reflection
Have you been disappointed with God? Have you been hurt by someone close to you? Do you feel left out and think no one cares about you? Well… You are not alone. Many of us have felt this way at some point in our lives. But know that God’s heart aches to see His children this way, and He wants to bring us hope and healing in our suffering. In doing so, God wants to use His people. Today, would you draw yourself near to God by actively seeking Him and opening your heart to those around you?