February 3, 2019

Everyone Has a Testimony

How we face trials says a lot about who we are and whom we worship.

Lewis Hendershot

I have regularly scheduled treatments at AdventHealth’s cancer center. Although—thankfully—I do not have cancer, my medical condition requires hourlong treatments every other month, which take place in the same large room where cancer patients come for their chemotherapy. At any given time, between five to 15 patients sit in lounge chairs receiving their IV treatments. Most are there for hours.

If there’s ever a time I feel like an ant in a room full of giants, it’s in this place—which has become more like a cathedral than a hospital treatment room. The cancer patients who come here are the most courageous people I know, and I’m always humbled to be in their presence with my insignificant problem.

A Special Patient

During a recent visit I noticed a woman come in and take her place in a chair about three seats from me. She was well-dressed and looked more like someone going to church than to a chemotherapy treatment. The nurses seemed to know her well and immediately began to prepare her for the IV treatment.

Our eyes met and I said hello and asked how she was doing. Her response was “It’s been quite a journey.”

I said, “I’m sure it has.”

Her next statement, however, caught me off guard. I expected something like “This doesn’t get any easier” or “Never thought this would happen to me” or maybe even “It’s my cross to bear.” Instead, it was a simple, surprising phrase: “This is my testimony.”

I felt like an ant in the presence of a giant.

As we continued our treatments in silence, I imagined what her life must be like. No doubt filled with inconvenience, uncertainty, pain, and discomfort. But my mind continued to reflect on her words: “This is my testimony.” Again, I felt like an ant in the presence of a giant. What a statement of faith and trust in a loving heavenly Father! She had chosen to turn a tragedy into a testimony.

She was still sitting in her chair, now reading her Bible, as I prepared to leave. Again, I looked her way and said, “You gave me inspiration today. Thank you. With your permission, I plan to share your testimony statement with others.” She simply nodded her approval. Sorry to say, I left without even knowing her name.

Ants Among Giants

We have all been given a testimony. Some are ant-size, some are giant-size. But whatever circumstances life has given, we all have a testimony to share. Through the apostle Paul, Jesus assures us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). In other words, my weakness can become my testimony through His grace and power.

The Bible is filled with these testimonies. Job, for one, comes to mind. Perhaps no character in all of Scripture, aside from Christ, suffered more loss and affliction than did Job. Yet his testimony was “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15). Certainly David’s testimony in the twenty-third psalm has been a comfort to countless millions down through history, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” (Ps. 23:4, KJV).

Hebrews 11 is a record of the giants who carried with them this testimony of faith in the midst of affliction, pain, and death. Here’s the most amazing thought: you and I are included in this chapter. After listing all the giants by name, there’s a description of many groups of people who bore a testimony of faith in terrible circumstances, such as confronting lions, fire, sword, torture, stoning, scourging, prison, persecution, destitution, affliction, torment, homelessness. But here we find ourselves included in Hebrews 11:39, 40: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

So there we are, ants among giants, receiving “something better” by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus. It will be worth whatever circumstance comes our way in this old world. Amid our afflictions we can say, “This is my testimony.” The opportunities to share our testimony may not be in a hospital or a church. Instead, they will likely occur in unexpected ways in the daily course of living our lives at home, at work, at school, at play, in the mundane, in the unusual, and in the tragedies of life—the hurricanes and earthquakes, fires and floods of life.

In one such tragedy, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote a series of books entitled The Gulag Archipelago, reflecting on his years of imprisonment in Russian labor camps. In this series he makes an amazing observation: “I turn back to the years of my imprisonment. . . . And I say . . . : ‘Bless you, prison, for having been in my life.’” Sounds a lot like the apostle Paul, a lot like Joseph, and a lot like the woman I met in the hospital. How often I’ve wished that my reaction to adversity had been as positive.

How Do We React?

Let’s face it, people observe how we handle the trials of life. Our colleagues are watching, our friends can see, our families are affected. Do our afflictions overwhelm or anger or irritate, or do they become our testimony, whether silent or spoken?

I’ve recently been pondering the impact the woman with no name had on my life. Without saying more than a few words, without even sharing the details of her experience, she was used by God to influence me by her simple expression: “This is my testimony.”

Lewis Hendershot is a retired Florida Conference president.