When I was in college I completed several different rotations in various settings of speech therapy. Each setting served to help me learn, grow and refine which path I would take outside of graduate school. I quickly realized that while I loved working with children, I had a real passion for working with adults. I found that the cases I was treating were challenging and rewarding but more than that, I loved getting to know the men and women I was privileged enough to call clients.
Throughout my career I’ve worked with a 100 year old woman who still rode her bike every day, World War II veterans, immigrants, inventors, doctors, missionaries, mechanics, chefs, a mother of almost 20 children, and even a Holocaust survivor. Each of these people brought deeply unique life stories to the table. Some of their stories made my stomach hurt from laughter, others made me cry, and some made me sit and think about my own past. I could probably write an entire book from the advice and stories I’ve collected over the years.
The stories of these people are the most precious reward of my job and I carry so many of them with me each day. I’ve found that people are most willing to share their stories when you’ve worked to develop a relationship that is built on equal parts of vulnerability and trust.
I’ve had patients nearing the end of their lives, share with me their greatest successes and hardest failures. When time is limited, I’ve found that humans have a desire to relive memories, good and bad, and extract from them lessons learned. Not because the outcomes of those stories will change, but because when they share their stories, it creates a legacy that goes on to impact others even after they are gone. And because when stories are spoken, it creates a shared, common experience.
I’ve learned my own lessons through many of these stories that don’t belong to me. Experiences that aren’t even my own, some that happened even before I was born, have helped to shape who I am and what I believe – all because someone was willing to give testimony to the ways God moved in their life.
Followers of Christ are called to share their unique testimony for several reasons. The first is that our stories glorify God.
Psalm 105:1-2 says, “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.” (NIV)
When we share what God has done with and in our lives, we offer ourselves for His glory. Shared testimonies are an act of worship; a powerful component to our collective praise to Him. Even the parts of our story we don’t understand, the chapters that used to bring us shame, the deep mysteries we don’t have answers for yet can be used to glorify Him. We don’t need to worry about editing our stories, but trust that the author and finisher of our faith will work out the redemptive details.
As our testimonies act to glorify God, God works to use our stories to impact the lives around us. This goes back to that shared, common experience I mentioned earlier. Each person has unique experiences and perspectives that shape their testimony, but the underlying threads of humanity behind each story are similar for every person.
We all experience triumph and tragedy, favor and loss, joy and sorrow, struggles and successes. When we share our testimony and the ways that God has remained faithful to His promises despite our circumstances, we are opening the door for someone else to see their own individual experiences through a different lens. Your story may hold the key to another person finding the source of true hope, true freedom, and true life in Him.
Remember that your testimony does not need to be neatly wrapped in a bow with clean edges and a perfect outcome. Some of the most powerful testimonies I’ve heard have come from people with a deeply broken past, who have known great hurt in their lives, but in their weakness, have chosen to magnify the strength and goodness of God instead.
Your testimony works to not only edify and encourage others, but it works the same for yourself. During seasons of doubt and uncertainty, I’ve reflected on my own testimony to strengthen my faith and remind myself that if God has done it before, He can do it again.
So if our testimonies glorify God, encourage others, and act as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to ourselves, it is important that we take time to become familiar with them. Here are a few steps you can take to prepare your testimony:
- If you haven’t given it thought already, become acquainted with your unique story. Your testimony usually gives account to your life before Christ, how you came to surrender to Him and received salvation in return, and the changes in your life since the Holy Spirit entered. Pray over and ask God to remove any shame you may feel about your life before you knew Him and replace it with confidence in how God has used that story for redemption. If you feel uncomfortable or unsure of what sharing a testimony looks like, look to Acts 26 for a powerful example from scripture as the Apostle Paul offers his testimony to King Agrippa.
- Practice sharing your testimony. If writing it down seems more comfortable, start there. Then begin to share it with close friends and family and as you grow in confidence, share it with the people you encounter who you are less familiar with. Rely on the Holy Spirit to move in your heart when it’s time to share.
- Trust that there is power in your story. After Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, John 4:39 tells us that many people from her town came to believe in him because of what the woman testified about her encounter with Jesus. When you share with people your personal experiences with Jesus, there is a ripple effect in the lives around you. Your story has the power to become exponentially effective.
We take away the power of shame, guilt, and sin when we surrender our stories to God. We magnify the glory, strength, and power of God when we share with others what He has done in and through our lives. Our stories are a source of hope and light in a world that craves lasting truth. So may we all remember and do as Jesus told the man in Luke 8:39, “Go back to your home and tell all that God has done for you.” (NIV)