“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
You may not know this now, but your story might just be the most powerful tool there is to reach our modern culture for Christ. Today we live in what is known as a postmodern society. While even the experts find it hard to define exactly what “postmodernism” is, one characteristic of the trend is that it is suspicious of any narrative that promotes only one way of seeing things. In other words, absolutes are out. Objective truth is just too restricting for the modern, or postmodern, man.
We live in the day of relativism, where what is right for me is whatever I deem to be right, depending on what my particular definition of right happens to be at the moment. While that almost sounds like a joke, it is closer to how many see reality than you might guess. Thus, when we try to tell someone the truth of the gospel, we may find that they immediately get on the defensive, resenting the suggestion that they have to see things a particular way or they are simply wrong.
For those of us who have embraced God’s Word as true and authoritative, there is no dilemma here, but for those who are living according to the spirit and mindset of the age, it is a completely different matter. Today, a knowledgeable Christian who is well versed in his faith may find that his well-crafted presentation of the gospel is met with indifference, as the listener sighs and says, “Well, I’m glad that woks for you, but I’m on a journey looking for my own truth.” Indeed, while some may be open to more familiar, traditional means of evangelism, there is a growing trend in our culture to reject any kind of dogma that aims to pin the individual to the wall with truth claims. So, how do we reach a culture that believes that truth is relative and rejects the notion that right and wrong are even definable?
There is a well-tested and proven means of reaching the seeker for Christ. That tool is your story. You can call it your testimony if you prefer, but it is the book of your life, told with conviction by one who lived it. People may reject your gospel tract, but few can resist a good story. Your testimony does not necessarily demand anything of the listener, and thus it puts them at their ease to hear the power of the gospel in story form. It tells the narrative of your life: how you were lost, how you were found, and the love and grace of the Savior Who took you at your worst and claimed you for His own. It’s the love story of mercy that healed the brokenhearted, and set the prisoner free.
Testimonies do not preach at people, but rather they draw them in through the time-tested art of storytelling. But this is storytelling at its best; not the fairytales of childhood of imaginary people and pretend worlds, but of real survivors who saw life’s battles up close and were rescued by the One who snatched them from the heat of battle and broke their bands asunder when it seemed all hope was lost. Our stories help us identify with a hurting world who understand what it means to be rejected, afraid, bullied, or addicted. Even better, our stories reveal that there is a way out. They give hope to those still bound, isolated in the prison of their own mind, assuring them that there is One who will reach into their darkness, take them by the hand, and lead them out to freedom. Our testimony doesn’t condemn anyone, because it isn’t so much directed at the hearer as it is simply there to tell how our life was changed by a personal encounter. They can take it or leave it, but they can’t invalidate it, because it’s your story, not theirs.
For some of us, there are lessons we learned in life at much too high a cost. We wouldn’t suffer the losses we did, or make the poor choices we made, if we could do it again. Nevertheless, we are now on the other side of that experience, and we found a loving God Who, in His redemptive grace, found a use for us in His Kingdom. Perhaps we suffered the consequences of our actions, or just simply suffered, but either way, we now we have a story we can tell.
You might have come through addiction, abuse, or divorce. You may have lost a loved one or failed the ones you love. You might have been ready to take your life when mercy suddenly stepped in and spared you. Perhaps now that time is behind you, and you’ve worked hard to put distance between you and a difficult past. You may not want to remember where you’ve come from, and you may even think that it is probably best you never let anyone know, but there are most likely others who need to hear the truth and wisdom you learned in your journey. They need to know that there are still possibilities for them, and they need a friend who can assure them that there’s life on the other side of failure.
It’s wrong to think that the only good stories are the ones where everything always worked out for the best. Most people can’t identify with those stories. Ours is a broken world, and most of us, at some time or other, have fallen victim to the harsh realities of life. That’s not to say that we haven’t found victory in Christ, or that we don’t know the joy of salvation. We can testify that we are the redeemed of the Lord, and He has put a new song in our heart! However, we must be ever mindful that there are others who have not yet found a reason to sing, and it might be your willingness to reach back into your past to share some hard-earned wisdom from your story that makes the difference between life and death for that one whose hope has failed. You don’t have to live there. You don’t have to identify with who you were. You have a new identity in Christ, and He has washed you clean and made you new. But He still wants you to reach back and to those still lost, just as Jesus came down to where we were that He might lift us up to where He is, seated at the Father’s right hand.
We have our stories to tell, and it is through them that we can connect with those still lost. Our God wastes nothing, and He will use our past pain points as potential connection points to reach those who are living in that reality right now. It might be your story that shines the light of Christ on their dark road to lead the hurting home.