Don’t Edit Yourself Out of Your Testimony
Do you remember the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), when folks who’d gone missing are reunited with their loved ones? It’s one of Spielberg’s finest moments—so utterly full of joy it makes us cry. I have similar feelings when I read about the great witness reunion in the Revelation. In this vision, survivors come from “every nation, tribe, people, and language” (Rev. 7:9). They wear white robes and hold palms. Christ-like suffering has purified them. They carry peace signs.
“Who are these people?” someone asks. The same person answers: “They’ve come out of great hardship.” God will be their shelter. They’ll no longer hunger or thirst. They’ll be protected from blazing heat. Their tears will be wiped away. We later learn they survived by “the word of their witness” (Rev. 12:11). Not even death could end their story. They’re martyrs.
While we often associate “martyrs” with dying for a higher cause, it actually means “witnesses”—i.e., survivors who lived to tell their stories. Many of us are martyrs and don’t even know it. We’ve survived all kinds of struggles. We’ve come out of great hardship. We’ve been to Calvary (many of us many times). We’ve found peace. And we’ve discovered the power in our witness. Our stories empower and embolden and sustain us. What’s more they inspire and assure others.
COVID-19 is calling for martyr testimony. Even as we pray for stamina to outlast the virus, we should think about our story. How are we being changed? What has this brush with death done to us? How has this experience brought us to closer to God and one another? What will our stories be?
Telling our truth means acknowledging how ugly and demoralizing this has been. How will we tell that story? We have great examples in the Psalms, where lament surfaces on nearly every page. The poets were unabashed about voicing frustrations, doubts, and despairs, impatience with God, and anger with arrogant kings and greedy, faithless neighbors. Cleaning up their stories would distort their witness into fairy tales. To deny their misgivings about God would erase God from the story. And they were having none of that.
As you consider your coronavirus testimony, tell your whole truth. Don’t edit yourself out. Write your lament. Complain about how hard this has been. Wonder where God went and why our leaders ignored obvious warning signs that death was knocking at every border (and no wall on earth was high enough keep COVID-19 out). Rail at neighbors who cared more about their social lives and investments than rampant loss of life. Go ahead. It’s part of your story.
But, like the psalmists and Revelation witnesses, know what waits beyond the complaint. Truthfully telling our story moves us forward, to the throne of Grace, where we find shelter and shepherding, where conflict and tears become useless because the I AM who makes All Things Well is right where God has always been: with us.
This week we look at lament in the Psalms. It’s raw, even shocking. But it’s also life giving. Join us this Thursday at 7:30a CDT via Zoom.
Join the study at:
Meeting ID: 564 427 274
You can also phone in at 1-312-626-6799, using the same meeting ID and password.
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As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!
Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea
As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.