“Testimony Lust”: How to Stop Wanting Others’ Testimonies and Own Yours
Written by Tiffany Dawn | March 27, 2018
“Tiffany, want to share your testimony tomorrow?” my team leader asked.
I was on my first mission trip, and I’d been dreading this moment. As a girl who grew up in a Christian family and accepted Jesus before she was old enough to remember the date, I didn’t think I had a testimony. I mean, my dad was the kids’ pastor at my church, and I was homeschooled, for crying out loud! The worst thing I’d ever done was tease my little siblings a few times.
So when my team leader asked me if I wanted to share my testimony, my mind started whirling. “My testimony? What testimony? Should I go out and do drugs tonight so I have a testimony tomorrow?” (True story, trying drugs was actually my first thought!)
I’d heard my teammates’ testimonies, and let me tell you: Those were real testimonies, in my mind. These people had been through some tough stuff, and God had totally changed their lives. I felt like my testimony (if I even had one) was totally boring, and how could God possibly use it for good?
I had an acute case of what my husband likes to call “testimony lust.”
Ever had it? “Testimony lust” happens when you hear someone else’s story and start to wish your testimony was cool like that. When you wish you’d made some terrible mistakes and seen God turn your life around, because surely that’s the kind of testimony that glorifies God.
Don’t get me wrong: Those types of testimonies are truly amazing, and I still love hearing them. But they’re not the only kind of testimonies that honor God.
And, as a side note, we often hear the testimony and gloss over the real-life consequences that person had to (and often still has to) walk through. It’s important to remember how much that person went through as God took them from where they were to where they are now. It’s truly amazing, but they would probably tell you that those mistakes were some of the worst moments of their lives and had a lasting impact on them.
I like to define testimony as “a story of how God has been at work in our lives.” And I believe we each have one of these stories, whether we realize it or not.
So if you’re trying to figure out what your testimony is, here are seven tips that have helped me.
1. Ask God what to share.
This one almost goes without saying. Almost. But God knows the story He’s given you better than anyone, and He knows what you can share that will glorify Him and encourage other people (because that’s the whole point of sharing your story anyway).
2. Look for your overarching life theme.
I always wanted a story of terrible things happening, but instead, I started looking for a theme that carried throughout my life journey thus far. Usually we have a few of these themes going at once:
- Maybe we’ve seen God’s love and faithfulness carrying us through life.
- Maybe we’ve seen Him teaching us how to love other people.
- Maybe we’ve been learning what surrender means.
- Maybe our faith has become our own for the first time.
So I’d look back over the past few years of my life and choose one theme that described what God had been doing in my life.
3. Choose a few short stories that illustrate your theme.
There’s a reason Jesus told so many stories. I think people connect with stories on a deep level. So choose a few stories that showcase or provide examples of the theme you’ve chosen. These can be simple, everyday stories, just little moments that show how God has been at work in your life.
One way to do this is by choosing a “before” story (to show what your life was like before God started teaching you this, or changing your heart), a “during” story (to show what the process was like when He started working in you) and an “after” story (to show what your life was like after He did that work in you).
I think it’s great to practice for a few friends and family. This not only gives you feedback, but also helps you figure out what you want to say and what you don’t want to say. I think it’s important to keep your stories concise so that people don’t get lost in the weeds, and practicing can help you stay focused and stick to the point.
5. Carefully choose which details you share.
There’s no need to share all the nitty-gritty details of your story, especially if you’re talking about past sins and mistakes. Sharing a little bit of general detail is great, and people really connect with that, but you don’t need to share every specific detail.
When you’re deciding what to share and what not to share, ask yourself (and maybe some friends or mentors) these three questions:
- Will sharing these details honor God?
- Will sharing these details encourage the people who are listening?
- Am I comfortable sharing these details?
If the answer to any of those questions is no, I’d leave out the details in question.
6. Trust that God is at work.
It’s so easy to share your story and then wonder if it did any good. Remember: God is the One using it. He’s the only One who can work in people’s hearts. Trust Him with it. Maybe He’ll use it right now or maybe years down the road. Maybe He’ll use it in your life or maybe in someone else’s. We can’t always see what He’s doing, but we can trust that as we give Him our story, He will use it for His glory.
When I was in my 20s, I traveled around the U.S. sharing my story of recovery from an eating disorder. At first I felt a lot of pressure to make those events life-changing and a really great experience for the audience. But eventually God showed me that the only thing I was responsible to do was share the story He had given me to share. That was it. Everything else was up to Him. Man, did that take the pressure off!
7. Your story will change throughout your life.
The beautiful thing is this: You don’t have to try to conjure up a story. You don’t have to try to put yourself in difficult situations. Difficult times are going to come to everyone, sooner or later; it’s part of being human. As you simply live your life with God, He will continue to give you more stories and your life story will continue to morph and change. And I think that’s so cool.
Back on my first mission trip, I did agree to share my testimony the next day.
And no, I did not go out and do drugs that night (lol). Instead, I felt God gave me John 15:27: “And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” I felt like He was showing me, “Tiff, you’ve walked with Me your whole life, so you can testify that I am faithful.”
And that’s what I did. I went out there and I talked about God’s faithfulness, and I realized that I too had a testimony.
If you want to hear more about finding your testimony, I have a video that goes into more detail, which you can check out here: