Before words were written, stories were shared. Stories have been passed down from generation to generation as a part of culture since primitive times. Our stories make way to connect to the heart in a deep way because of the emotion they convey.
Hearing or reading what someone else has experienced allows us an inside look at who they are, what they’ve walked through, and who they are becoming. Personal stories connect us to one another and open our eyes to our own experiences in a new light. Real stories show us real possibilities.
Real stories show us real possibilities.
I remember being 19 and on my DTS outreach to South Africa. We spent our first two weeks in the same township and on the second day, we met this lady who really liked us. I remember listening to her story and thinking I had nothing to offer her. She had so much more life experience than I did. She’s from South Africa and I’m from the United States. It felt far fetched for me to have anything helpful, good, or encouraging to say to her.
I remember my outreach leader coming to me and explaining how even though where I come from was totally different, and my life experience was not the same, the heart of the matters I have experienced may be more similar than I realize. If I strip back everything external and listen to what’s going on in her heart, maybe I would have something to offer. Maybe that thing is deeper than my own life experience. Maybe the shame I had felt, though my external sins differed, could bring hope in a way that penetrates the heart even deeper than having the same external story.
Though my story of where I came from and how I was raised was vastly different than hers, we became good friends. As it turns out, the ways God has dealt with my heart and brought me freedom were some of the exact things she needed to hear to realize grace is extended to her too.
Our Stories Matter.
I remember sitting in a small group I was leading and sharing a part of my testimony I had never before shared in a group setting. The next girl shared they experienced the same thing, and the next, and the next. Turns out our whole small group had experienced the same struggle. One girl voiced she had no idea other girls struggled with the same thing. The enemy had lied to her for years telling her she was the only one, but it was the vulnerability of a story that made way for freedom.
Our Stories Open the Door for Other People to Experience Freedom.
In Revelation 12:11 we read, “They overcame by…the word of their testimony.” The word for testimony in Greek is “μαρτυρία.” Transliterated, that’s, “martyria”. Coincidentally, this is the same word used after Jesus was arrested and stood before the High Priest for the accusations against him. We can gather that this word is the word used in the court of law, and that testimony must be referring to the story shared that is either ruled “true” or “false.” (Spoiler alert: the High Priest found Jesus’ story to be true and the accusations against him false.)
Our testimony includes the things we’ve seen and experienced, pertaining to who God is, that can’t be proved otherwise. They possess a legitimate power to overcome. Our stories, when connected to God’s redemption in our life, have the same effect.
Our Stories Possess Power to Overcome.
Not all stories are good stories. Not all stories glorify the right things. There are stories we should and shouldn’t share, usually based on the context of conversation. Regardless, stories are important and powerful. Stories from your past are worth sharing and so are stories of brokenness. Stories of things you are working through are worth sharing and so are stories filled with hope.
Above all other stories, stories where God has redeemed us are worth sharing, because, in sharing these stories, our faith is built up, the faith of those we are sharing with is built up, and God is glorified.
When we’ve experienced grace and freedom, there’s nothing like it. I don’t know about you, but my response to experiencing God in my own life, after thanking Him, is to go and tell everyone I can of what I’ve experienced. My heart response to God’s grace in my life is to testify.
Our Stories Give Glory to God.
As humans, though the opinion of man doesn’t have to be our God, we often value the opinions of those we are close to and we trust when looking for guidance. Surprisingly though, it’s sometimes the story of a stranger that pushes us to make our decision. Sharing our stories can help rid confusion and bring clarity. True stories engage, inspire, and compel. While the same stories will not inspire everyone, each story has potential to impact even one person, and it’s worth sharing until it does.
Here’s a story from our team that is currently in Albania:
“At a service one Sunday, I shared my testimony of struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. More importantly, I shared how Jesus restored my joy and all the truth He spoke over me. After the service, a young man, age 14, asked to talk to me. He told me he has been struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. This is because of bullying at school. His mom showed me pictures where his body was bleeding and full of bruising due to abuse. To add to this, His dad is an alcoholic. His mom said there’s been multiple times where he has tried to jump out of a window.
He explained that my testimony was the first time he heard of someone that struggled with the same thing, found joy, and was delivered from it! He said that he wanted the same! So, I got to talk and pray with him as well as set up a meeting to go out for coffee to talk with him more!”
Sometimes these stories include all of the exact details in the moment. Sometimes these stories include nothing about the location or who we were with. Stories are powerful because they are the way we relate to other humans. It’s through our story telling that we identify, bond, and share vulnerability with others; and, find the beauty that lies beneath the surface.
What’s your story?