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Testimonies. Whether you enjoy speaking in front of others or it fills you with dread, at some point or other we all end up having to give one in our Christian walk. You might even find yourself sharing in a one-on-one situation with another individual rather than a large crowd.
But have you ever been in the following situation?
You’ve experienced difficulty or hardship for a long period of time. Maybe you’ve been in a wilderness for what feels like an eternity. Eventually, after months or years of prayer, a light seems to appear through a crack in the darkness. It seems that God is finally beginning to work in your life and your situation has changed.
Others around you are encouraged by this turnaround and exhort you to give your testimony on how God worked in your life. How he provided this new job for you, new relationship or new life growing inside you. Because you believe in God’s power and goodness, you want to tell others about it.
So you give your testimony, and everyone who hears is encouraged by it. “Praise God” they say. “That’s an amazing testimony. God is good.”
But not long after, they tell you how much they appreciated you being so vulnerable and sharing all of that. And awkwardly, you tell them that you lost this job. Or this relationship ended. Or the life growing inside you has come to an end.
You begin to feel like a laughing stock. It almost feels as if you’ve jinxed yourself by sharing too quickly when things weren’t established enough.
You may ask God: Why did you put this job or relationship in my path only to rip it away? It seems all too sudden and over too quickly. How could you tease me with the promise of something, only to pull it away at the last second? It almost feels cruel.
I have felt precisely these same thoughts and feelings in many areas of life. It becomes easy to never want to share your testimony ever again.
How do you remain optimistic during these times when life throws you a curveball? In other words, as the baseball idiom suggests, life puts a spin on the ball that causes it to curve or deviate from the normal straight path just when we think things are working out.
How can you continue to share your testimony when it feels so short-lived? And how can you keep from feeling discouraged? After all, what you shared with others no longer holds true, even though it was true at the time. It may no longer be able to be used as an example of how God worked in your life.
HERE ARE 7 THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU LIFE THROWS YOU A CURVEBALL.
1. Remember you’re not alone but in good Biblical company
When life takes a wrong turn after you share your testimony, it’s easy to think this only ever happens to you. Maybe you question whether you did something wrong that God had to take it away from you again. Did you somehow fail your probation period?
On top of that, you can feel like you’ve let other people down who were encouraged in their faith because of your testimony. You can start to feel guilty that you’re even feeling this way.
Take courage however that you are not alone, and that you’re not the only person to feel this way.
There are many figures in the Bible who have experienced exactly the same thing as you. These people were considered great people of faith.
God promised Abraham that he would be the father or many nations. He told him to look up at the stars, and that as countless as they were, this would be how many descendants God would give him.
Abraham found this difficult to believe. Both he and his wife were very old and past the age of childbearing.
Yet within a year of the angels visiting Sarah, she gave birth to a son whom she named Isaac. Both Abraham and Sarah loved him dearly as he grew up into a young man. It’s quite conceivable that both of them would’ve sung God’s praises on how he gave them a miracle at their age. They had been barren for so long, but now God had worked in their lives. It’s natural they would’ve told others as a testimony to God’s goodness and faithfulness.
However, in Genesis 22, one day God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son on an altar.
Abraham would doubtless have been extremely confused and wondering if he had heard God correctly. How could God, who had specifically provided this miracle son for them, now be taking him away?
And what would other people say who had heard his testimony before on how God had brought Isaac into their lives? What kind of humiliation or shame would they face?
The same happened with Joseph in the book of Genesis. After God gave him prophetic dreams, his brothers sold him into slavery to the Egyptians. However, he became a servant in Potiphar’s household and managed to become something of a success. Unfortunately, this was short-lived. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him into having an affair with her. When he refused, she accused him of rape and Joseph was thrown into prison. However, Genesis 39:21 tells us that God was with Joseph. He allowed him to find favour with the jailer so that he was put in charge of all the other prisoners.
Later on, Joseph’s prophetic ability to interpret dreams came in use when he offered an interpretation for both the Pharoah’s chief baker and wine bearer. Although Joseph asked the wine bearer to remember him, he was forgotten in prison for a further two years.
Both Abraham and Joseph had the rug pulled out from under them so to speak. They had a taste of God’s goodness and favour for a while but then it was taken or threatened to be taken from them.
Both remained faithful despite all of this. They trusted God even when they couldn’t see any way ahead and did not curse him or lose their hope.
2. Realise that God wants us to seek him and not his gifts
When we lose all hope after these things have been taken away from us, it can reveal the state of our hearts. We may have been seeking after God’s gifts rather than after the giver himself.
God doesn’t want these things to become idols in our lives.
In his book, Counterfeit gods, Tim Keller describes an idol as something we can’t live without. This can be something that is perfectly legitimate and good in its own right such as the desire to be married, have children, a career, health etc. However, when it is becomes more important to us than God and fills our hearts and thoughts more than God, then this thing has become first place in our lives. A counterfeit god is anything that becomes so essential to our life that, if this were to be taken away from us, we would think that life is not worth living.
When we have been longing for something in our lives to happen, it can begin to consume our every thought and our entire prayer life. We begin to seek God not for himself but for what he can give us.
If we finally get that thing – whether it’s a relationship, job, child – we can begin to think “Now I can finally be happy. Now someone will finally recognise me as significant. Now people will finally take me seriously.” Without realising, we may have made this thing into an idol in our own life.
When forced to choose between this thing or God, what will be our response? Will we feel like our life has no meaning again if it is taken away?
There’s a line in the evocative lyrics of the Coldplay song Viva La Vida which says:
“One minute I held the key – next the walls were closed on me, and I discovered that my castles stand upon pillars of salt, pillars of sand.”
Sometimes our situation can feel exactly like that. For one minute, we hold the key when we enjoy the fruit of answered prayer and feel like things are finally looking up. The next moment we are outside of these walls and no longer have access.
It is in these times that we discover whether our castles are built on sand or whether they’re built on a firmer foundation – the rock of Christ.
3. Realise we can’t always see the bigger picture
The Rubik’s Cube is a good example of how God can seem to take us forward only to bring us backwards.
When solving the cube, sometimes in order to put everything into order in the end, you have to temporarily move things out of order. To someone with no idea where you’re going, it can look like you’re manoeuvring the pieces out of order even when you’re seemingly close to finishing.
In the same way, we don’t have that overall omniscient knowledge that God possesses. When God moves things out of place in our lives, we can’t always appreciate that he has a plan for us and that it may be leading eventually to greater order for us.
We can’t always see the bigger picture from our own limited perspective. It’s true it may not offer much comfort in our time of grief, and I would be the last one to make light of such a situation. But we need to trust that God sees things that we cannot see.
4. Understand that some good can still come out of your brief experience
Alfred Lord Tennyson once said:
“’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”
There are many times however when this doesn’t feel true. Sometimes it feels as if it would’ve been better never to have loved, or never to have gained a breakthrough than to have gained one and then lost it promptly afterwards. You may question: “what was the point of it all?”
In the 1990 film drama “Awakenings”, the late Robin Williams plays Malcolm Sayer, a physician at a Bronx hospital in New York City. He works with catatonic patients who have survived the 1917-28 epidemic of encephalitis lethargica. After attending a conference on an experimental drug normally used for treating Parkinson’s disease, Sayer experiments with his own catatonic patients and is successful in “awakening” them from their catatonic state.
One of his patients is Leonard Lowe, played by Robert De Niro. When he wakes up and discovers new-found freedom, he takes pleasure in the little things in life which people normally take for granted. Things such as taking walks, looking at things, being able to be around others. However, both Lowe and the other patients’ newly awakened state is short lived and they eventually return to their catatonic state.
Sometimes our temporary emerging from a state of decay or slumber can feel exactly like this movie. We awaken and experience life and hope once again. However, when it fades away or is snatched from our grasp, it is easy to become cynical. We can believe that it would’ve been better not to have emerged at all than to have emerged and gained a brief hope, only to return there once again.
In the film however, although Sayer acknowledges that the awakening was short-lived, he observes that there was another kind of awakening that occurred. Everyone experienced an awakening for life – learning to live and appreciate it. Sayer, for example, found the courage to overcome his shyness and ask a nurse out for coffee after having avoided that kind of situation earlier. Other nurses also now treated the catatonic patients with more care and respect as people, rather than as zombies.
In a similar way, some good can have come out of our brief experience where we were enjoying success. If we gained employment again, it could have helped us to develop new skills or put us in contact with certain people, even if our work was only temporary. In a relationship, even if short-lived, it could have helped us to see the kinds of people we can relate to and those we can’t. It may have even been only a stepping stone to something else later on down the line.
As mentioned above, we can’t always see how God is working in our lives and how he may have used the experience. We can’t always see the bigger picture and how God may use each experience in a particular way to shape us into the person he intends us to be.
5. Don’t allow the experience to make you bitter or doubt God’s goodness
When God seemingly throws a spanner in the works, it’s easy to become bitter and resentful towards him. We can begin to doubt God’s goodness and whether he really loves us. Over time, our resentment can build up and we no longer are able to trust him.
This is exactly what the devil wants. He is the accuser and deceiver. If we don’t take our thoughts captive but allow them to fester, it will eat away at our relationship with God. We will eventually become estranged towards him and may find it difficult to pray, let alone praise him.
In addition, we can become cynical about life and never excited about anything anymore. When something good does happen, we will be waiting for the other shoe to drop and expecting the worse.
And sometimes, this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
What I feared has come upon me;
what I dreaded has happened to me.
26 I have no peace, no quietness;
I have no rest, but only turmoil.”
Like Job, we can find ourselves with no peace and unable to rest in God’s goodness or to even receive his grace.
We may also become reluctant to ever share our testimony with others. Either we’ll feel that the moment we share it, God will reverse it. Or alternatively, we can’t honestly stand up there in front of others and proclaim God’s goodness when we aren’t sure of it ourselves.
I have been through this exact same process myself.
Once we begin to doubt God’s goodness and are constantly looking over our shoulder, this allows our hearts to grow cold towards him.
We can counter this by doing the following:
6. Keep praising God even when you don’t feel like it.
Praise and worship has power behind it. We may not always feel like praising God, especially when life is not going our way at all. However there are several good reasons we should do so anyway, despite our feelings. I’ve gone into more depth about it here.
One important reason is that when we praise God, our words function as speech acts. This is when certain words do more than merely communicate information but actually change a situation.
When we praise God, we agree with truths about him and speak these out in faith. It gives us a different perspective of the situation from God’s point of view.
This is what both Job and Habakkuk did in spite of their difficult circumstances:
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Consciously choosing to be thankful and praise God in every circumstance – including our difficult circumstances – has the effect of boosting our own faith. As we assent to the truths of scripture, this helps us to focus on his character and his goodness and to avoid becoming cynical about life.
This leads onto the last point.
7. Use discretion when you share your testimony, but don’t give up telling others
Here are some practical steps you can take in sharing information.
In all things we should exercise discretion and wisdom on how much to share with others. We also need to be careful with the types of people with whom we choose to share this information. Only share in a group or with an individual you trust and who understand your journey. Not everyone will have the maturity or the integrity to see things in the right way, especially if life does throw you a curveball later on.
If someone asks you to share your testimony in church in front of the whole congregation, then pray carefully over whether it is the right thing to do at the moment. Don’t rush to share your testimony either, especially if you have been praying about your difficult situation for a long time.
Sometimes, without realising, our testimonies can become a subtle way of boasting. We can have the temptation to want to do that as soon as it seems that God answered our prayers. It can make us feel good because of all the attention we receive. When it looks like God is working in your life, people seem to give you more respect. You must be a mighty man or woman of God if he is doing these kinds of things.
We need to question our motives for sharing. Is it to tell of God’s goodness, or simply because we’re trying to let others know that we’re “okay” or acceptable now by the world’s standards? Do we want a fantastic testimony like everyone else seems to have and are therefore seeking validation in other people’s eyes? Are we simply wanting others to know that we now have a relationship or a job or a child and are finally worthy of significance? If so, we may be making these things (including our own reputation) into idols without knowing.
The real test is when nothing seems to be happening. Or when we share our testimonies but then life throws us a curveball and our previous situation has a “relapse”. Can we still proclaim God’s goodness in spite of our circumstances?
Can we still speak it out as an act of faith like Habakkuk did in Habakkuk 3:17-19 even when the fig tree doesn’t bud or the olive crop fails?
As Isaiah 40:8 says:
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
The grass may wither. Our situations around us may crumble but God’s word still stands.
Our proclamation of God’s goodness shouldn’t depend on whether it seems he is doing anything in our life or not. It should depend on the truth of scripture and its everlasting value.
When life throws us a curveball – and inevitably it will – we need to trust in God’s goodness and wisdom. We also need to continue to declare these truths even in our darkest moments. As we put God first in our lives we can ask him to search our hearts to see if we have allowed any of these things to become idols. In this way, we can gain the right perspective again.
We may never know the answers this side of heaven for why certain things happened in the way they did. And all the explanations in the world may prove fruitless when we are grieving a loss.
If you are a friend or family member supporting someone else going through this type of situation, the best thing you can do is to offer them your support and pray for them without trying to provide rationalisations for why things happened.
People might say they want our empathy – i.e., they want us to feel what they feel. However, this is actually a word which is often substituted for “sympathy”, which has lost some of its original meaning. The Greek word “sumpathesai”, from where we get the word sympathise means “to suffer with”. This is a much richer meaning. When we sympathise with someone, we actually suffer with them too rather than simply giving them a pat on the back. This is more meaningful than simply being able to emphathise.
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Finally, have you had any experiences where you’ve given your testimony but then God seems to roll back on your miracle? How do you deal with it? And do you find any of these suggestions useful?
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Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.
This Post Has 6 Comments
Kirsten Victor14 May 2018
This is such a relevant post. I don’t know of a single Christian who hasn’t experienced this at least once. Thank you so much for those 7 encouraging truths to hold on to when we just don’t understand.
Michael Pratt15 May 2018
This is a wonderful and encouraging article.
Fran Maynard16 May 2018
This was so good! I never put together all the things I was feeling when this has happened to me in the past and for helping me see that this is more common than I thought. Thanks for the practical encouraging truths to hold onto when this does happen. Great post!
Prescott17 May 2018
Usually when I feel that way it’s because I am tired of waiting on God and start to give him help when he doesnt need any help. I need to let go and let God. Thanks for this.
Sheila Rhodes17 May 2018
Thank You for such a powerful word. I never thought about the fact that Isaac had become Abraham’s God. The truths you shared were so relevant to my life and I appreciate the authenticity and vulnerability of others who share their hearts for our story is for His glory!
Rebekah17 May 2018
I really think that sometimes if we share with others, we are then challenged to test how genuine our faith really is. It’s “good” for us, but definitely not easy. Good thoughts that you’ve shared here!