Just make sure you stay alert. Keep close watch over yourselves. Don’t forget anything of what you’ve seen. Don’t let your heart wander off. Stay vigilant as long as you live. Teach what you’ve seen and heard to your children and grandchildren. [Deuteronomy 4:9 (MSG)]
Generation after generation stands in awe of your work; each one tells stories of your mighty acts. [Psalm 145:4 (MSG)
Stories—everyone loves a good one and we all have stories to tell. My children loved hearing their Grandpa tell stories of boyish pranks like stealing watermelons and tipping over outhouses. It wasn’t just his tales of mischief they enjoyed; they relished hearing about him working on the farm, playing basketball and wrestling, enrolling in college on a whim, having a victory garden, and starting a business. The stories we never heard, however, are the ones I wish he had shared: the stories of his faith journey. He was a Christian, yet I don’t know how he came to be such a man of faith. I know he met Grandma at a church social and attended the Lutheran church in town, but that doesn’t tell me when and how the Holy Spirit truly entered his life. It doesn’t tell me about the times he might have doubted or been afraid or the times he knew without question that God was holding his hand or had answered his prayers.
Accounts of faith journeys are some of the best stories we’ll ever hear. Whenever a mission team returns to our mountain church, the participants tell of sharing their faith and how it was strengthened by doing so. One young woman even revealed that she was the one saved by their mission. From various pulpits or lecterns, I’ve heard people chronicle their faith journeys—people, just like you and me, who openly shared their wounds and scars and the way God changed their lives. They spoke of mental illness, alcoholism or physical abuse or told of losing a loved one, their health or even their faith. I’ve heard Gideons tell how the Bible guided them to Jesus and an addict tell of how a 12-step program brought him to Jesus. I’ve heard people tell of reaching the depths of despair when they thought life was impossible and others tell of miraculous healing. These stories had little or nothing to do with what church they attended; they had everything to do with what God did with, for and to them. These were the testimonies that came from their tests and the messages that came from their messes. I am thankful to those who have shared their lives so openly.
Jesus told the demon-possessed man to return home and tell his story, the Apostle Paul frequently shared his conversion story with others, and people continue to share their faith stories today. Not everyone, however, is comfortable speaking from a pulpit, in front of a group, or writing a Christian blog. Yet, we all have stories to tell and they may well be the very stories someone else needs to hear. Look around—there is probably somebody nearby who needs to hear your story. When our brothers and sisters are hurting, it’s not difficult to see their pain, especially when it comes from something we ourselves have experienced. If someone is struggling with issues similar to ones with which we have wrestled, we understand; we’ve passed through the same valley and found comfort and peace at the other end. I don’t think God comforts us simply to make us comfortable; He comforts us to enable us to comfort others—to make us comfort able.
What’s your story? Who should you tell?
I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.
I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
[“I Love to Tell the Story” by A. Katherine Hankey]