Whenever I speak on the topic of sharing your story, I inevitably get asked the questions, “How do I know it’s the right time to tell my story? What if I’m still living it? What if other people are involved in the story and they’re still alive and part of my life?”
What do we do in those situations? What if our stories involve us being hurt by others? What if telling our story would risk damaging relationships?
What if we’re still in a dark, difficult season and the emotions involved with our story are just too raw? What then?
The following is an excerpt from the book, Share Your Story: The Transforming Power of Telling Others What God Has Done. If you’d like to read more, you can find a copy here.
Steps to Help You Discern the Right Time to Share Your Story
Step 1: Pray
Throughout the gospels, we read about God performing miracle after miracle for people to know Him and His power. On some occasions, the individuals who received the miracle were instructed to go and tell others what God had done. In other situations, they were told to keep silent and not make it known.
In fact, in Mark 5, we read back-to-back stories of Jesus performing miracles but giving opposite instructions afterward. In Mark 5:1–20, when Jesus cast a legion of demons out of a man and sent the demons into a herd of pigs, Jesus said to the man, “‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled” (vv. 19b–20). But in the very next passage when Jesus raised a twelve-year-old girl from the dead, we read, “And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat” (Mark 5:43). While we’re not given a reason for why Jesus instructed some to “go and tell” and others to remain silent, we can assume that there is a time to share and a time to keep quiet.
Take time to pray for wisdom, discernment, direction, and clarity from the Lord. Ask Him to help you discern whether or not He wants you to share the story you’ve been given—and if so, when and where He wants you to share it. If He does lead you to share your story now, ask Him to help you share your story not out of a place of hostility or as a form of gossip, but for His glory alone. And if He doesn’t want you to share your story now, ask Him to give you patience, understanding, and obedience to His will.
Step 2: Search Your Heart
As mentioned earlier, search your heart. If you are harboring any hint of animosity, hostility, bitterness, anger, rage, or hate in your heart, now is not the right time for you to share your story in a public setting. Take some time to journal, converse with the Lord, and perhaps pursue some intentional one-on-one conversations with a trusted ministry leader, accountability partner, counselor, or other individual who might be able to help you work through some of those difficult emotions.
Consider the following passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23–24). If we consider our stories to be an offering to the Lord but sense that someone might take offense to something we plan to share, we should first go and seek reconciliation before giving our offering to the Lord.
Step 3: Press “Pause” before “Publish”
One of the easiest ways to regret publishing or sharing something is to rush into it. I’ve complained many times about how long my memoir’s publishing process took overall, but deep down, I’m grateful to have had as much time as I did to let the content simmer and marinate so I was really sure the material in the book was what I wanted to include.
Particularly when your story includes other people, it’s very important to take your time. Don’t hurry to publish or share. Hurry to write and journal, yes—but don’t rush to make it public. Reread your work or rehearse your verbal story multiple times.
If you have any reservations at all about sharing your story, ask a few close friends or a mentor to read what you’ve written or listen to your version of the story and give honest feedback. Take their responses seriously and be willing to make adjustments if necessary. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and humility when relationships are involved.
So as you prepare to share your story, pause first. Pray some more. Listen for the Lord’s direction. Get input from a couple of friends. Most of all, don’t be hasty. Press “pause” before “publish.”
Step 4: Trust His Timing
Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” We may have grand plans and desires for which way we’d like to walk with our stories, but God is the One who determines where and when we will go.
I started writing in 2011, on a blog that I only told three people about. At the time, writing was a coping mechanism for me. My mom was in the final stages of cancer, and I needed an outlet. I had no intentions of writing for the public. Ever. Now, that story of my mom’s cancer is a published book. That wasn’t part of my plan. But apparently it was God’s plan.
On the other hand, I signed the contract for my memoir in 2015 and fully expected the book would launch at least by early 2017—and even that felt like a long time. But 2017 came and went with no published book. Apparently that wasn’t God’s plan. It was hard for me to wait, but with every setback and delay, I kept having to remind myself that the words would be released when it was time. God knew exactly who needed that book and when, and He would make sure they got it when they needed it.
I encourage you to obey God’s lead. Follow His direction. Say “yes” when He nudges. Say “okay” when He doesn’t. Rest and trust. He’s been leading His people since the beginning of time; He won’t stop now. He’ll lead you, too.
This post has been quoted from the book, Share Your Story: The Transforming Power of Telling Others What God Has Done.