Growing up in the church, I often heard people speak of their testimonies, or the story of their relationship with God, at church and camps, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that I realized how much impact their words can have on me.
Most preachers or church camp speakers mention their testimony at some point during their ministry, but have you ever truly listened to the struggles and obstacles they’ve faced?
I remember in seventh grade, I went to a Fall Retreat for my youth group and the theme was “My Story.” We were spoken to about testimonies and developing our own and that’s probably the first time I realized the meaning of the word “testimony,” in reference to the Christian Faith. We were encouraged to write our testimonies so we could profess them to others. Our shirts for the camp said “Ask me about my story,” and the purpose of them was to be a catalyst for people to question us so we could tell them our testimonies. At the time, being the shy person I am, the thought of doing such a thing made me sick to the stomach. I hated talking about myself to people and in front of people. I was also not very exposed to much hardship- at least not the I could comprehend as something worthwhile to help explain the power of God’s love. I never wrote down “My story” that weekend, for two reasons:
- I thought was socially invisible & no one would ever inquire even if I wore my camp shirt
- I didn’t think I had a story worth telling.
Let me tell you- I was quite wrong. The t-shirt was a bright shade of blue and and the lettering was a vibrant shade of orange… And people were curious. Random peers would ask me about my story and I would break out in a sweat because I had not prepared myself and didn’t know how to react and never told them my testimony. (Don’t do this, P L E A S E)
I share this tale of my naïvety, not to talk down on myself, but to offer you some encouragement. Middle school me (yikes, I hate thinking about it) was blatantly unaware of the effect a testimony can have on someone struggling in their faith, and that is something college me truly understands.
I think the first time I really felt and understood the power of Christ in someone’s testimony is when I went on my first mission trip to Peñuelas, Puerto Rico. It was on this trip that I was first exposed to a completely different culture and lifestyle. Many of the people we spoke to did not have as many luxuries as all of us from the mainland United States, and yet, they all were so grateful and joyful. I realized the things I had taken for granted (especially air conditioner) and it humbled my heart and drew me in to the people. The people who shared their testimonies with us really struck a chord with me, as I realized the similarities and differences of their struggles and how Christ helped them overcome.
Since then, I really put thought into my spiritual journey that is still (and will always be) a work in progress & decided to write out at least a basic synopsis of my story, in case I ever need to share it. I’ve heard many over the past couple years since that trip as well as my return to Puerto Rico this past summer, and they often times make me so very emotional.
And now that I am at UMHB, I hear testimonies 2-3 times weekly, thanks to church, chapel and Worship in the Quad. While the stories told at all of these events have an effect on me, I think the most influential are the one told at Worship in the Quad. For those of you who don’t know what Worship in the Quad is, it is a weekly event in which students willingly gather to worship together for an hour and share testimonies. Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard heartbreaking stories from my peers and they always get me thinking. Through my time here, I’ve come up with a few reasons why listening to testimonies, especially ones of your peers/colleagues, is beneficial to your faith.
- Fellowship. By listening to the intimate details of someone’s walk with Christ, you get a better insight to who they are and why they are. I immediately feel connected to my peers, even the ones I haven’t met, because they made themselves vulnerable and shared a side with me and other students they don’t necessarily show to anyone else. This draws us close in the body of Christ, and even makes me feel led to go speak to that person and give them a hug or thank them for sharing. I’ve noticed in similarities in their stories I can relate to, as well as things that I may not understand as well. The people I befriend who are so brave as to share their testimonies in front of so many peers tend to be the closest of friends and it immediately forms a bond of trust. This is important for building Christian fellowship and finding accountability partners.
- Knowing you can get through anything. Worship in the quad takes place in Thursday evenings, so I enjoy going to help me get through the end of great weeks as well as stressful, long weeks. When I feel as though everything is going wrong, I can listen to the words of my peers and hear about the adversity and hardship that they’ve faced, and I remember I’m not alone and that I CAN get through it. Some of the people who speak have been through the unimaginable & my eyes have really been opened. I also knew my burdens and struggles and thought they were unique, but by opening my ears, I realize they are not. I take comfort in knowing that these beautiful people can get through such painful and difficult situations through the power of Christ, and I instantly stop pitying myself. The messages they tell remind me how big God is and how powerful his love is. Testimonies remind me that people have overcome more difficult situations than I am in by putting their faith in God, and I instantly take comfort in that. It restores balance back to my faith when it is trembling in doubt.
While these are things that I’ve discovered for myself, I hope they can apply to you as well. Start listening to what your peers have faced on their spiritual journey, testimonies can be very powerful. Also, do not be afraid to speak out about yours- you never know who has gone through similar situations to yours who can relate and take comfort from your story- or even be lead to Christ. God gives us the courage and ability to share our words & he speaks through us to reach those in need of saving. We have a big big God and he works in mysterious ways, and he works through us. Our words, through the greatness of God, have the ability to reach many, but it’s also important that we not depend on our own words, but learn and grow from the experiences of others. Listen to what people have to say because you can get so much out of it & it can help you grow in your spiritual journey immensely.
Acts 1:8 – But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Blessings and prayers to y’all,