I can remember hearing that word at an early age. As I was passing time in “big church” as a kid, my ears would perk up when I heard that someone was going to share their testimony. It was always a story. These stories followed a formula: a terrible sin or sickness in the past...hitting rock bottom...nowhere to turn but God...deliverance and victory. As I’ve grown up, I am beginning to see I’ve misunderstood what a testimony actually is. The focus of the drug-addict-turned-preacher story was on ultimate victory over sin. The problem for me was that my own story was filled with a lack of resolution and few victories. I assumed, as many do, that my faith simply wasn’t strong enough to experience victory over sin or circumstance.
Recently, I’ve come to realize my mistake. My testimony is not that I have survived sin or suffering, it is about how I survived. Not too long ago, my friend Dave Browning died of a brain tumor. He did not experience victory over cancer. This week, I met with a new friend who survived cancer. It was a long and grueling process, but he came out the other side victorious and happy to be alive. The thing is, both these guys have the same testimony! One is alive and one died and yet their God-story is the same. Both men lived out the same message in the midst of their suffering: whatever happens, this story ends well. Both men maintained a sense of humor and were able to love on the very people who were there to care for them. Both men held tightly to the Father and were surrounded by people who shared their faith. While having no control of their circumstances, staring death in the face, they rode it out with Jesus.
I can get behind this kind of testimony! I seldom feel like I have control of my life. I do, however, have the ability to leverage my story in the midst of my circumstances--suffering or not. I can grab hold of my Father and trust him to sit with me. I can let people into my pain and uncertainty. I can embrace my lack of control and look to Jesus to guide me through to the other side--whatever that may be. What is your story...your testimony?