Simon Sloutsker

Elder & Director of Music, Beth Ariel Congregation, Montreal

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness” (Ps. 30 :12)

I was born in Moscow, of a Jewish father and a Russian Gentile mother. I lived my first 19 years in Soviet Russia, which was communist and atheist. I loved this country, its language, its culture, its literature, and it was here where I started to look for God.

However, my investigations had not given any satisfying results. I had looked for God in the sciences, in philosophy, in literature, in the esoteric spheres such as yoga and Buddhism, as well as in the Russian Orthodox and French Catholic churches. Still, I could not find Him.

At the age of 18, I was stricken by a mental disorder that literally tore at my soul. I am speaking of manic depression, also known as bipolar disease. For 12 years, this disease left its mark on my young life, stamping it with deep black streaks of groaning. To soothe my inner pain, I found refuge in music and poetry. However, the arena of art only offered a temporary relief.

When my mother saw how deeply I suffered from depression, she started to seek God. And He graciously revealed Himself to her. Then my father came to faith as well – he was the first Jew to be baptized in a French speaking Pentecostal church in Montreal. My parents prayed for me while I was going through this valley of the shadow of death. I started to read the Bible and ask questions. But these questions were engulfed by the pain of my soul.

During one of my stays at the hospital, God revealed Himself to me, in a most extraordinary way. I was lying in my bed, in a conscious state of constant suffering, when I suddenly felt a spiritual presence in the room. It was the presence of my Creator. I couldn’t see anybody, but I understood that God was present, and I could hear in my soul His comforting words: “Do not worry, my child, you are one of the sons of Israel, I will not leave you in pain, I will be with you. ‘’

And my Creator kept His promise. He was with me in the lowest moments, in the darkest nights, and in the deepest valleys. He led me to read a book written by Alexander Men, a Russian Jewish believer, historian and theologian. This book is titled, “The Son of Man”.

I got to know God better through this book as the One who loved me, forgave me, comforted me, He being the One who lived among men more than 2000 years ago. He was the One acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). It was He who suffered on the cross (Ps. 22:16) to free us from sin and heal our diseases. I understood that only Jesus would be with me in these most painful moments of my life. It was not Buddha nor Krishna nor any master nor angel; there was not any other who could go into that pit where my soul was crying out in pain. Slowly I realized that Jesus had suffered on the cross in a much more acute way than I had and I saw that my own suffering was engulfed in His…

who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek”. (Hebrews 5 :7-10).

I was saved by God’s grace, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb who was slain, placed in the invisible Church by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. God stitched my soul with both expert and sensitive fingers. When I do read the Word of God, or when I pray, I know that God has been healing me without ceasing.

Reading the Bible, praying, experiencing true fellowship did replace medication, hospitalization and psychoanalysis. My psychiatrist rejoiced when he saw my progress and at some point, he even allowed me to stop my medication. It is indeed a huge victory in a man’s life, a victory that I wouldn’t have been able to win over without the Great Healer’s intervention.

I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry.  He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth—praise to our God…” (Ps.40 :1-3a).

Through all these years of ordeals, the Lord has blessed me abundantly. He gave me a faithful wife and four children. My parents prayed for my salvation and my spiritual growth and rejoiced over my spiritual life with God. The Lord gave me musical talents and I composed many songs for His glory. The Lord placed me in a congregation where love reigns, and where sound doctrine is preciously kept. In my congregation – Beth Ariel, Montreal, Canada – national and cultural identities are cared for and both discipline and freedom are promoted and encouraged. While listening to uplifting messages and reading thought provoking books on theology and history I acknowledged and understood my Jewish identity, as a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, a child of Israel, God’s chosen people, loved by God and His Messiah Yeshua. I worship Adonai and praise Him for all His awesome deeds, and I am looking forward to seeing my God in heaven, face to face and to worshiping Him, along with my brothers and sisters.