Faith & Inspiration

What’s in a name?

Finding Strength in our Pain


This morning I am getting ready to go to a women’s conference, where I will be speaking on Isaiah 62:4 and how God gives us a new name.

“You will no longer be called Abandoned,
    and your land will no longer be called Deserted.
Instead, you will be called My Delight Is in Her,
    and your land, Married.
    Because the Lord delights in you,
    your land will be cared for once again.”

While working on my talk, I kept on thinking of my own name, mainly being disappointed by its meaning :). Mirjam is related to the name Maria and Mara and is most of the time translated as bitterness or waters of bitterness. If names really say that much about us (which I am sort of stating in my talk), what am I to make of the meaning of my name?

So I did some research. And with surprise and relieve, I found out there is more to my name than just waters of bitterness. There is another meaning to it, which can be waters of strength. So there they were, two meanings. It felt as if God has given me the choice to decide which one I am going to live out, which meaning is going to be the true one for me.

Now to understand how I ended up having to choose between bitterness and strength, it is important for me to tell you a little bit more about myself. Eight years ago I came to England to study. Up until this time I had been leading quite a comfortable live in the Netherlands, surrounded by family and friends. I came to England only for one year, but that year a lot of things happened that meant that I was to stay in England and leave everything I had ever known as being my home behind for an undefined amount of time.

There are still times that I feel homesick and long to go back into the past and just value a bit more what now seems so far and out of reach. I can live my life being bitter about these things I have lost and left behind. My name can be about this grief. Or I can use all this baggage as my strength, that what gives my life power and depth. Because it is Gods hand that guided me and his right hand that is holding me fast.

The reference to waters is quite powerful as well as it often feels like it is the waters that took me from my homeland the Netherlands to England. I remember the 16-hour journey from IJmuiden to Newcastle on the ferry quite vividly.The weather was very rough that night!  At that time I didn’t know I would never come back ‘home’. But on the ship, in the middle of the night, I was reminded of a few verses in psalm 139, a psalm which has always come back to me at important times in my life. It says:

“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:9-10)

I had never really noticed the word ‘settle’ before. Settling is about staying somewhere for a long time. Without me being aware of it, the water created the distance and meant the start of a new life. It is in this water that I can find the meaning of my name, which is either bitterness or strength.

The pains in our lives can make us bitter, but God can also use them to our strength. If we allow Him to, He will lead us into a spacious place, away from being abandoned and alone.

“He brought me forth also into a large place; He was delivering me because He was pleased with me and delighted in me.” (Psalm 18:19)

This is the very interesting website I used to find out more about my name. I am curious to hear from you: what’s the meaning of your name and does this in any way reflect something of your life and purpose in life?


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