I know she meant well. But as her talk opened with the statement: “we should never doubt God’s desire to bless us,” I felt a little nervous. She had a wonderful personal testimony of God intervening in miraculous ways in her life. But I knew that sitting in the audience was a woman whose husband had just walked out on her and their four children. At the back of the room was a woman whose son had been killed in a car accident three years previously.
God does do amazing things, and He does want to bless us. But those blessings do not always happen in this life. In fact, many of us will be asked to bear enormous burdens in this life. The fact that there is suffering does not mean that we have a lack of faith, or that God is angry at us. In fact, over and over again in the New Testament God talks about how we will be tested and we will suffer because of Jesus.
Suffering is not a sign of God’s disfavour or of our own shortcomings.
Sometimes suffering is just a symptom of living in a fallen world. And when we speak, we must be aware of that. God will not heal all diseases; not even Jesus did! He watched His own earthly father, or stepfather, or whatever you want to call Joseph, die. He didn’t heal all the people who were brought to Him. And death still happened, even to every last one of the apostles. He did not come to spare us suffering in this earth; He came to give us abundant life in the here and now, even if it does involve suffering, and then eternal life in the hereafter.
So be careful how you share your testimony. Maybe you, like this speaker I heard, have a great story of God’s provision. But as you tell it, make sure to acknowledge that many in the audience will not experience God’s help as dramatically as you did, and this does not mean God doesn’t love them. The real miracle, after all, isn’t God saving you from suffering; it is God redeeming you from this sinful world. And that is a miracle He does for everyone.
I have listened to speakers who honestly meant well, but who wounded with their words. I have read books by people who really ascribe to the “name it and claim it” gospel, that God wants us to live perfect, healthy lives. I do not see that in Scripture. What I see is that no matter what happens to us, God will carry us, and that is the message that we need to be giving.
If you do have a marvelous story of God’s provision, by all means, do share it. But be sure to temper it with another story of God’s grace despite hardship. Think of Joni Eareckson Tada, for instance. God did not heal her quadrapalegia. But he has worked in incredible ways through her life that would never have been possible before, and He has given her life abundantly. Share both sides of the coin, so that you do not show a distorted picture of God, and you do not needlessly wound those who listen to you.
We all want to be inspirational, but I think what God is really looking for is not people who have faith that God will act in a certain way, but faith even if God doesn’t act in a certain way. God wants our devotion and our hearts, not just our belief that God wants to make life hunky dorey for us.
When you’re speaking, always picture the person in the audience who has the potential to be hurt the most from your message. Now, what can you say to lighten their load? What hope can you give them from Scripture today? If you’re able to minister to the most hurting, then your message will certainly be effective, and will certainly be used to change lives!
Wondering about the best way to share your story for maximum impact? My download, Crafting a Life Changing Signature Talk, provides you with a blueprint for how to write a talk that points people to God, not to what God has done in your life.