After James and I lost our child to miscarriage, I called a relative who had experienced what I did. I shared with her what was going on and she sat on the phone and cried with me. She kept telling me how sorry she was and encouraging me to not blame myself. There wasn’t much she could say but just knowing she had lived through what I was walking through was comfort enough for my broken heart. Not many people will sit and cry with you, but she did. I left that conversation comforted.
I sat in my living room talking to a new friend. She asked about the loss of my brother because she had read the post about his drug addiction. I shared with her the entire story and when I was done she shared hers. She too lost her brother to a drug overdose and hearing another sister share their story, their emotions, their struggles, brought comfort to the brokenness in my heart. For the first time when it came to the loss of my brother, I left that conversation understood.
There was a period of time where my calling was being heavily attacked, specifically by one person and the army they rallied. Their words and action stung, for years. I was talking to a fellow female in ministry and we shared our struggles, the opportunities that had been taken away, the hurtful words and actions of others. We encouraged one another in our calling knowing God was above mankind and their destructive actions. I left that conversation affirmed and empowered.
You have a story and it needs to be heard. You have walked a path or two (or twenty) where you have come out the other end. You are the author of an amazing book that recalls struggles, victories, chains, breakthroughs, failures, sin, forgiveness, freedom, healing. This book is in your heart and it needs to be heard.
The reason my relative was able to comfort me through my miscarriage was because she was open about hers.
The reason I felt understood for the first time in my grief from the loss of my brother was because a new friend was brave enough to ask me about my story and also share hers.
The reason my friend and I were able to empower one another in our calling is because we were vulnerable and shared the hard truth of the reality of sexism in the American church.
They each shared their story. Their pain, loss, rejection, and fears. I can think of hundreds of conversations, sermons, books, etc. I sat through that have deeply encouraged me. The testimonies God used to bring me healing and hope.
I know it’s hard to share. It’s hard to go to that place in your heart that you try to protect and keep locked up safe. I know firsthand what it’s like for someone to take my vulnerability and use it against me. My words have been abused with gossip and impure motives. I have literally been laughed at when crying, put down for expressing my emotions, and rejected.
And it hurt. A lot.
However, over the years God has given me wisdom and discernment on who to share what to. I’ve learned to share a slice of the story, see what the person does with the slice before giving them the entire cake. While there are layers of my life that belong to my husband only, I’ve learned over the years the value of sharing my story with others. When I’m encouraged by other people’s testimonies, I want God to use mine in the same light.
Psalms 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.”
When I first started this blog and ministry, I struggled with transparency. It was hard to get my thoughts and emotions out in written form. The Holy Spirit has been so kind by guiding me weekly on what to share, how to share it, and I’ve learned to trust Him every step of the way. Since I’ve been more open regularly with you over the past five years I’ve learned two important lessons.
The first lesson is, sharing is healing. When you hang on to your burdens, they weigh you down. It also leads to a path of isolation, which is exactly where the enemy wants you. He wants you to believe no one will understand the struggle you’re going through. He wants you to believe people will place shame and blame on you. He wants you to believe people are untrustworthy. He wants you to falsely believe you have everything under control by keeping it within your limited abilities because he absolutely doe not want you to rely on your unlimited God.
I didn’t share about the death of my brother, for almost five years. It was too hard, I was afraid of what people would think after they learned how he died. I thought it was easy to push it aside and ignore it. What I didn’t realize was the hurt and pain it was causing me internally. I didn’t see how it affected my thoughts, my relationships with others, even how I was parenting. It wasn’t until I started to share that areas of my heart were able to heal. Friend, I was trying to hang on to ensure my safety, but in reality, I was preventing my healing. You see, God did a lot in my life and in my heart after I lost my brother and I wasn’t telling a single person. I was preventing God from receiving the glory He deserved while trying to ensure the prevention of further pain. Proverbs tells us that when we receive encouraging words it lifts us up, but how can we receive them if no one knows what we’re carrying?
Proverbs 12:25 says, “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.”
When you choose to open your heart and share your story, don’t focus on the bad that can come from it. Always use discernment, but never allow fear to stop you. Instead, allow the Holy Spirit to guide you and believe the truth of God’s word-knowing good will be done. God will use your testimony to encourage others, bring healing to your heart, and allow others to share in your burden. You won’t have to walk this hard path alone, you can give God all the glory even while you’re walking through a hard season- you don’t have to wait till it’s over. The only way we can share in each other’s burdens is with wisdom, boldly open up to those near you and give them the space to do it as well.
There, you will receive healing, encouragement, and the false comfort of isolation will be broken.
Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
The second lesson I learned is the cost of privacy. There are always layers to every situation, rarely is anything black and white. When you keep things too close, it hurts those around you. When my brother was struggling with addiction he asked for us to keep it private. He was embarrassed but also wanted his sin hidden. My parents kept everything in our family within our home walls. No one knew anything and specifically, no one knew of my brother’s struggles. The year leading up to his death, his addiction was affecting every area of his life. Our family members kept asking questions, things weren’t making sense, stuff not adding up, and I was left making excuses and coming up with false answers. I was straight-up lying. We all were and we thought it was to protect him. And it did, but only to a certain extent.
When my brother died suddenly everyone in our extended family was devastated but also confused. They did not understand how my brother got to where he was. As they began to learn the truth of the last few years of Bernie’s life, they all sat stunned. And individually they asked the same question, “Why didn’t you tell me?” They cried, they felt robbed of an opportunity to help, to pray, to support. All of that was taken from them and without their consent.
There is a cost to those around you when you hold on too tightly to your pain. Those that love you will be robbed of their obligation as family members or brothers/sisters in Christ to love you, support you, pray for you, and help you.
Friend, I want to make this extremely clear by continuing to repeat it; there are parts of your story you’ll need to keep close and share only with your spouse, parent, and counselor. But there are layers to your story that also belong to your family, friends, brothers/sisters in Christ. Each of those layers is full of God’s love, comfort, promises, etc. It’s your duty as a follower of Jesus to share that with your world.
To my friend who keeps her heart closed, please open it back up. I know it’s scary. I know it’s daunting. I know how it exposes everything and you feel you’re not ready for it. Baby steps. Take one story, one journey, one experience and share part of it. You will quickly learn who you can and cannot trust. People will always fail you, even the godly ones. Allow God to fill in the gaps and stop hiding- for the purpose of your healing and to give God glory.
Jesus taught, encouraged, and corrected by using stories. In fact, in Mark chapter 4 we are told that in Jesus’ public ministry He never taught without using a story. Never taught without using a story.
You have a story and it needs to be heard.
You have a story that can bring comfort and healing to others. There are others craving to know they’re not alone and the only way they will see they’re not is by you sharing.
You have a story and your heart will heal when you share it.
You have a story you do not need to write alone. There are people in your life who are willing to write for you.
You have a story and this broken world needs to hear it.
Luke 8:39 says, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.”