While on their spiritual journey with Jesus, many people find the most compelling stories about Jesus come from the Christians they already know. If you’re looking for proof of Jesus’ ability, ask your peers about their own journey with Christ.
Your own story can be just as compelling and is the most powerful tool you have to demonstrate the love of Jesus and show how he has changed you to other people.
These stories of Jesus’ work in our lives, either to find Him, or find strength in Him, are known as testimonies. We all have one, maybe even several. When you become a believer in Jesus, your journey to that acceptance of him is your testimony. As you continue in your journey, you’ll find more moments happen where God clearly shows up. These too are testimonies.
Testimonies come in all shapes and sizes! Some are very dramatic, with wild turning points and big ‘ah-ha! I get it!’ moments; some are far less so and have a slow build, but they are no less compelling. Some testimonies may involve great struggle and the story of how Jesus helped them through it. Some may involve a few different incidents that make far more sense to the believer after they reflect upon them with God. You may not realize you have a testimony until much later, but when you think back, you can see the hand of God working in your life.
You’ll find testimonies from others to be fascinating, hope-filled, and a great way to get to know God and the power of faith. Here we present two testimonies from people just like you. It’s our prayer that they touch your heart and open up the work of God in your life.
Leanne’s testimony of a faith tested through depression and ultimately redeemed:
I grew up in a Christian home. My parents took me and my three siblings to church every Sunday—twice. We attended the Christian Reformed Church. I knew who God was and what Jesus did from a pretty early age. I can’t say that I had any doubts as a youngster.
But I grew up in a dysfunctional family. I noticed that my sisters, who are twelve and ten years older than I am, often fought with my mom. I knew something was off.
When he got to high school, my brother, who is four years older than me, avoided my mom, even though he was the favored one because he was the boy. He would come home after school, watch a movie, eat dinner, and disappear to his room.
I was a super active kid. I played outside a lot, either with my brother or with the neighbor kids. We lived on a dead-end street. When I was 10, I was outside with two younger friends, and we were doing pop-wheelies into the street. As I picked up speed down the driveway and went into my wheelie, the last thing I saw was a speck out of the corner of my eye. Next thing I knew, I was waking up in the hospital. I had been hit by a pickup truck, flew into the air, did a summersault, and landed on my back, skidding a little. My bike ended up in the ditch on the other side of the street.
I spent five days in the hospital—my spleen was bruised, and they wanted to make sure it wouldn’t burst—but otherwise I only suffered a concussion and got stitches in one leg. In those days, you didn’t wear a helmet either. The doctors were amazed I was alive; it really was a miracle.
At 10 years old, I was already asking big questions: Why am I still here? What purpose does God have for me?
I continued to attend church with my family, but things were still not good at home, and they were starting to get worse. As I moved into my teens, my mood changed drastically, and I was exhibiting signs of depression.
I didn’t like the way my family put on a show all the time. It seemed very hypocritical. Especially at church, we were not allowed talk about problems in our lives. My parents’ generation never talks about problems; they have to look good on the outside—anything bad happening in the family would make the parents look bad. So even if my mom and I had a huge fight in the car on the way to church, I had to put on a happy face before we went in. I hated it.
I attended high school youth group at my church, but as I was not allowed to really say anything about what was going on with me, I had to deal with the depression on my own. My oldest sister had become a youth leader at my church, mostly for my sake. My mother was very controlling, especially about our looks. She also tried to control the communication between me and my siblings and between us and our dad. My oldest sister would sometimes take me to Brookfield Zoo in the winter. It was fun, but Mom grilled me on what we talked about when I got back, and she always assumed the worst about what could have been said about her. It was hard. But spiritually, things were going okay. I made Profession of Faith in the fall of my junior year.
I’ve always played sports. In my early high school years, I played sports year-round. I was in marching band in the fall, on the basketball team during the winter, and on the softball team in the spring. And so long as I met the age requirements for the park district, I played softball during the summer. But I didn’t do well playing the politics game that was required to excel in the athletic world. So for example, in basketball, even though I was one of the best players, I sat on the bench a lot. I was so sick of it by junior year that I decided to quit.
But that also meant that I spent more time at home around my mom. The conflict only got worse, and I spiraled deeper into depression. I was still attending youth group at my church three Sunday nights per month, but during the fourth Sunday, while my parents were at their Bible study, I would go to the kitchen and cut the top of my arm with a knife. It was winter, so I could wear long-sleeve shirts to hide it. And I didn’t cut too deeply—just enough to bleed a bit and heal in a week or so. I had it down to a science and no one would find out.
My sisters noticed that something wasn’t right. Having gone through depression themselves, they knew what signs to look for and urged my mom to get me into counseling. Finally, she took me to see a Christian psychiatrist. There my mom learned I had been cutting myself. She was shocked and appalled, as if she was the only one hurt by it. She also blamed my mood shifts on my bike accident from childhood. I was diagnosed with depression and put on Prozac. I immediately went into a manic phase. I had promised I wouldn’t cut anymore, but I soon began cutting and hiding it again. My psychiatrist discovered it and, with my psychologist, decided I should be hospitalized while they changed my medication. I was livid. Music was also very important to me, and the hospitalization made me miss a state music competition. My doctors thought they were helping me by taking that pressure off, but I felt even worse because I was letting my friends in our flute trio down.
After high school I decided to try college without medication. My psychiatrist agreed, and that fall I went off to Calvin College in Grand Rapids. I met some good friends my first week there, but I was already showing signs of depression. I ate as few meals as I could and still survive. It was another way I was reaching out for help, seeing if anyone noticed or cared. I also decided that, since I had the choice, I wouldn’t go to church. I didn’t care anymore, and I didn’t think God would want me. But my college friends noticed I wasn’t doing so well.
As it turned out, my friend Christi suffered from depression and anxiety, and she was a pastor’s daughter. I was surprised because I had decided that depression and God were incompatible. Thankfully, my friends cared enough to explain that depression isn’t a spiritual issue and that God really did love me. God could still use me because he loves to use cracked clay jars, and we are all cracked in some way. Christi was on medication, and it helped her. She helped me understand that it’s okay to be a Christian and suffer from depression. It isn’t a problem that God can’t overcome.
Second semester of freshmen year, I sought help from another psychiatrist. This time I was correctly diagnosed with Bipolar 2, which has the ups and downs in energy but is characterized by a depressive mood throughout. We eventually found the right medication, and I was on a much better path.
I began attending church regularly again, and my relationship with God grew. After college, I moved back home and decided to join the leadership of my church’s high school youth group. I wanted to help kids who suffered from depression and needed someone who understood them. I wanted to use my experience for God’s glory, and I still have good relationships with several of those kids.
I have been through many hopeless places, but God was always with me. And I thank God that even someone who went through a period of severe doubt could be used by him to encourage and help others.
Andrew’s testimony of coming to faith through success and failure:
I come from humble beginnings, and my parents did everything they could to provide me with every opportunity to succeed. Neither of my parents would let my sister or me get away with not saying please or thank you. We would attend church, say grace before dinner, prayers before bed; God was in my life, but I didn’t fully know him.
I grew up active. Participated in sports, played games in the yard, and had sleepovers with my friends. I was a good student with decent grades. I made the high honor roll and even earned the prized possession of a bumper sticker proclaiming this.
My athletic career was also blessed. I was the leading running back my freshman year, and by my junior year I was a star on the football team. As my popularity around campus grew, the student body voted me to the homecoming court all four years of high school.
Amid what I imagine was a life that many kids would dream of, my struggles began. I look back, and think that, perhaps, if I had known God was to thank for all that I was blessed with, would my life have been different?
In addition to my success in football and the classroom, I fell in love for the first time. I really felt like I had it all. But, in reality I was losing touch with who I was and letting destructive things penetrate my life. I was drawn to the party scene. I felt I had an image to uphold: I was a popular kid, and the popular kids go to parties. I drank beer and tried recreational drugs. I experimented with sex and cheated on my girlfriend.
I was lost. I didn’t know who I really was. Although I was presented with scholarships from schools to play football, I decided that going to a larger university was the best path for me academically. But, being honest, I wanted a larger school not for the academics but for the parties and the women.
I was accepted to the University of Illinois, and in the summer of 2003 I began college. I entered school with the ambition of becoming a doctor. It wasn’t long before I found more fun in the social scene. I was partying with my fraternity, meeting girls, and blowing off classes to hang out at bars and parties.
My grades in college were drastically affected. I’d have a decent semester followed by a poor one. I scored well on many of the tests and quizzes, but my attendance in class was low, often missing assignments needed for higher grades.
It began to affect me, and problems were to get worse before they got better. I started fighting in bars to release my anger and discontentment.
I was aware I had problems, but my life was so empty. I had nobody to pray to. No God to believe in that could get me through this. I said I was fine and made excuses for my challenges, saying I was just having fun. But I was spiraling further. God was not even a thought anymore.
After graduating from college, I started getting my life together. It took a DUI, an arrest for fighting, and wrecking my car while under the influence; but I eventually found solid footing, and in 2012 I landed at a company I loved. This was the place that I saw myself spending the rest of my career.
I flourished as a member of the inside sales team. I thought I was going to climb the corporate ladder and now had new aspirations to become the company’s top producing sales executive.
At this company, my mind began to shift toward God. Christianity was alive throughout the organization. I developed relationships with people who placed God at the center of everything they did. The people were so incredible. They were fun, confident, made me laugh, played sports, and with the exception of faith, were like me in a lot of ways. But all this wasn’t enough get me into a church, and hence came another downfall.
I was crushing it at work. So much so that I won the highly coveted “Rookie of the Year” award. I was so happy and, crucially, overwhelmed. It was that night the ‘old me’ once again resurfaced. I celebrated with my colleagues and partied hard all night. Some of the company’s executives were made aware of it but gave me a “pass” given the circumstances for celebration.
With the award, I won a trip to Florence, Italy. Another amazing highlight! And of course, another setback. I drank. I celebrated. I crossed the line. I fell into and broke a $3,000 statue.
The last straw came on a night where once again the entire sales force had gathered for our sales meeting. At this point, I felt I had learned my lesson and really focused on changing my behavior. I drank less and did not let alcohol influence my decisions. I was in a cab with a couple of my teammates and talking with our Afghani cab driver. I was asking him questions about his home country, and he was happy to talk about it.
My buddy then shot off a remark that seemed to offend our driver. The man was defensive, started raising his voice, and became hostile. We had arrived at our hotel, and the driver got out of the cab, yelling at us, then he reached into his jacket pocket. Given this man’s erratic behavior, this startled me and I thought that he was reaching for a gun. I believed I was defending us when I took a swing at him which sent the man flailing and his cell phone flying. Apparently, we had frightened him, and he planned to call the police.
At this point, it was too late. Many members of my company were around in the hotel lobby, and by the next morning everyone knew about the incident. I was fired, and my dreams imploded.
I knew I needed help, and I felt that help calling loudly from God. With no other place to turn, I went to church. My mom was attending regularly, and finally, after asking so many times before, I said yes to going with her.
This is where life began to change. This church was such a welcome place. The people were like me—they dressed like me and cared about the same things I did. They were just like the Christians I had met at my former job.
I began attending church on a regular basis. Through prayer and Scripture, I began to let God in. I started to open my heart and accepted Jesus.
I cannot say that my life has totally changed, but I now have a focus. A guiding light. An inner peace. I know that I cannot do this life on my own. Without prayer, the center of my life will begin to deviate again. I’ll lose myself. I’ve been put here on this earth by God, and I still am working to discover my purpose.
There are so many books and podcasts and speakers that talk about how to be successful. They help you reach new levels. But every time I reached a new height, I’d fall back. I never developed the skills to sustain or how to respond to success.
Reflecting on my moments of fiasco, they all occurred after some level of success. As great as they all were, I became uncomfortable. These were levels of success (on the football field, in the classroom, at work) that I did not believe I was worthy of. And new pressures, attention, and responsibility all came with it. Instead of embracing them, I would press the reset button. I knew how to get what I wanted, but I didn’t know how to maintain it.
I have God now, and I have my faith. I have prayer and a relationship with Christ and have an ever-growing network of people in my life that will help me achieve. Now I believe that when success is achieved, I will be confident in moving forward.
There is no doubt I will stumble along the way. But, as this new season in my life takes shape, I am not afraid. I embrace these challenges and am excited to see what the future holds now that my footing is firm.
We will be posting more like this soon. If you would like to share your own testimony with the readers of Unfolding Faith, please email us with your name and your story: firstname.lastname@example.org