Every story matters. Some of us have had hard pages in the stories of our life. God has been faithful and as a result we may want to share the hard parts with the hope of encouraging others. I would like to give you three things to think about when writing or speaking your hard story. Let me start with one of my favorite quotes out of Experiencing God.
“See where God is working and join him there.” Henry Blackaby
Where is God working?
What has He been doing in you and around you?
Where has the path taken you?
The picture above holds out the hard of my story.
Though my story was about divorce and depression, the take-away are the truths God met me with in the middle of my pain. Readers don’t need to walk away with my intimate details as much as they need to be encouraged by biblical truth that can be applied to their story. My story is a vehicle for me to share the redemption power of a loving God.
- Remember your story is bigger than you
People don’t need to get caught in the “dirt” or the pain of your story. They need to see God at work in human lives. When they see the evidence of God with you, they will be encouraged that God is with them too. The story is bigger than you imagined because God uses all things in your life. No suffering is wasted.
2. Refrain from telling the painful parts while still hurting
Hurt people, hurt people and healed people bring healing to other people. In writing the hard parts of your story, have a mission mind-set. What is your mission? Why tell the story?
Are you a victim and want to expose someone for personal justice? Or have you learned some hard-earned biblical truths that will now help others?
3. Remain vulnerable but respectful.
Usually the hard part in your story has something to do with another person or people. Do you want to drag your reader through the dirt or lead them to the light?
In a nutshell, here is a guide that I have found helpful when writing or telling the hard parts of my story. I sift the stories through this grid.
- Life Circumstance
- My Reaction
- God’s Response
- Biblical Truth Applied: How I experienced God
- Life Change: Truth to share with others
- Life Circumstance: My husband felt he didn’t love me and left me with two kids.
- My Reaction: I thought he should know better, go to counseling, try harder, because he was a pastor.
- God’s Response: An invitation from God to truth–Trust God with the future, forgive and co-parent well.
- Biblical Truth Applied: God made it clear to my heart that pastors are people first, and I must lean into forgiveness. Forgiving was not a Biblical option. Continuing to hate was not a Biblical option.
- Life Change:When I was open to praying for my ex and seeing him as a person rather than a pastor, God gave me his heart of compassion for him. As I forgave, I was freed myself.
The telling of my hard story has more to do with how God met me than what another person did to me.
There is always a back story. I have never told publicly the backstory of the pastoral divorce. It would not edify anyone. What does help people is knowing that people, all people, go through hard things and God meets them in the hard to find more freedom than they ever dreamed possible.
Does this help you sort through the hard pages of your story? How does it sift out differently when running it through the life circumstance grid here?
Kristen Joy Wilks
Ah, such hard but important lessons here. Thank you, Debbie! My husband (a camp director) is very good at sharing just a portion of his story with others. The whole thing would be overwhelming, but he is great about seeing what is relevant for a given audience. Yes, I have found that the hard parts of my story invariably involve other people. It is so hard to know how to share without wounding those who are part of a dark season. This is so helpful. Perhaps I will be called to share someday and now I have a guideline for doing so. Thank you!
I have the greatest respect for those who can find wisdom and grace in a hard past, but I can’t stand among them.
Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
Not gonna tell my story,
but rather close and lock the door,
’cause it’s a tale that sure would bore ye,
and telling it would bore me more.
Maybe something will be lost
to vanish on the air,
but I’ve already borne the cost
and I no longer care
to linger ‘midst old hope and dream
in a dusty dead museum.
I’m off soon to God’s empyrean,
so I’ll call ’em as I see ’em,
looking only straight ahead,
letting the dead bury their dead.
Andrew, whether you realize it or not, you’ve “been telling your story” through your poems for some time now. Maybe you’ve left out the gory details, but readers can still fill in the blanks. Your humor shines amidst the despair, and often shows the way for those of us who are more fortunate. You have had more impact than you will ever know.
Elissa, please forgive my late reply (it’s been a rough few days), and please, even more, accept my thanks for your grace-filled words.
I never really sought to tell my story, but rather use it as a mirror to the writing life.
This is so helpful, Debbie!
When our motive for sharing the backstory is to expose another person, be understood, validate our hurt, etc., it shows we need deeper healing.
When we can write to show God’s transformation in our lives and how He can do the same for the reader, we know forgiveness has done its work.
Thank you for your example!
Janet Holm McHenry
Your life grid is superb, Debbie. Thank you for this tool!
Great insights and wisdom here, thank you!
I found this blog very helpful and timely. I am writing my memoir, and part of my story is also divorce from a pastor. Did you have to ask permission from your ex to write what you did write about your divorce?
Thank you for sharing these ideas. I incorporate a lot of the hard experiences I’ve gone through into my fiction novels, and these are such good pointers to keep in mind, both so I can encourage my readers but also so it remains a healthy process for myself.