Why We Must Stop Squashing Women’s Stories

Brittany stood bravely before the audience at her church’s women’s retreat. Like most women would be, she was nervous and uncomfortable. What she planned to share would be shocking, but she refused to let fear stop her from testifying how God miraculously rescued her marriage. 

For years, this young mother with bright eyes had been quietly suffering from the verbal rampages of a controlling, enraged spouse. In her darkest moments she doubted whether God was powerful enough to heal and resurrect a dead marriage doomed for divorce. But Brittany never stopped praying and never stopped clinging to Jesus. 

Brittany knew she couldn’t keep living in isolation with her pain. One day she found the courage—that can only be explained by the Holy Spirit—to get honest and ask for help. The dam broke. Over the next couple of years, she and her husband received godly wisdom from pastors, mentors, and counselors. Today, their marriage is marked by humility, repentance, restored love, and trust. In Brittany’s words, “Only God!”

As Brittany shared her story publicly for the first time, you couldn’t find a dry eye or untouched heart in the room. Her testimony infused each listener’s own private story of suffering with renewed hope. The worship that followed sounded like a heavenly chorus, as the united church praised God’s goodness in every story—even those still being written that haven’t reached a fairytale ending.

Our Stories Are God’s Story

Brittany’s willingness to share her testimony reminds me of David’s joy in expressing God’s faithfulness in his story:

I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. (Ps. 40:9–10, emphasis mine)

Like David’s and Brittany’s stories, our life stories of salvation, healing from affliction or abuse, deliverance from shame and sorrow, mercy in pain and brokenness are really part of God’s greater redemptive story. Each narrative is precious to Him and isn’t meant to be buried like a hidden treasure or locked away like skeletons in a closet. I don’t share the trendy mindset that every person needs to publish their life history in a book, but it’s true that when God’s people proclaim what the Lord has done for them, it builds up the Church. 

There’s Power in Our Stories

An invitation to the Church to pull up a chair for storytelling is found in Psalm 66:5,16: 

Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds. . . . Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. 

Our stories have the power to: 

  • Expose that Satan’s evil plan is nothing more than a pawn in God’s hands to work for our good (Rev. 12:11)
  • Deepen our Christ-bonds of fellowship when we rejoice and weep together (Rom. 12:15, 1 John 1:2–3)
  • Encourage joy and hope for running our race strong until the end (Heb. 10:24–25)
  • Comfort one another with the comfort we’ve received from the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 1:3–7)
  • Magnify God’s character and evoke corporate praise (Mark 5:19)

From cover to cover, the Bible is replete with real-life stories that inspire us to have faith for our own journeys.

The narrative of each life speaks that God is the Hero of every adventure, the Deliverer of every rescue, the Healer of every brokenness, the Comforter of every affliction, the Redeemer of every lost soul, the Rock for every instability, the Shield for every attack, and the Fortress for every battle.

  • Without Esther’s story, how would we trust God’s Providence? 
  • Without Paul and John Mark’s story, how could we have hope for our broken relationships? 
  • Without Hannah’s story, how could we have faith in our waiting? 
  • Without Rahab’s story, how could we believe God’s glorious redemption?
  • Without Hosea’s and Gomer’s story, how could we grasp God’s covenant-keeping love? 

Harness the Power of Stories

There are many more lessons about the character of God waiting to be told in our ministries. Let’s harness the power of stories by creating a culture in our churches that invites all kinds of stories—the messy ones, the ones still unfolding, and the neat ones tied up with a bow. Every single story has worth . . . including your story.

Seeds are sown for cultivating transparency when a leader goes first in telling her story and validates that all stories have eternal value in glorifying our great God and Savior. 

Invite testimonies (without coercing!) at Bible studies and events. Every chance you can, invite someone to tell her story. Pray with her in advance, and provide coaching on how to share so that the focus is on God and not herself. 

Why Women’s Stories Are Squashed

In an informal poll of women’s ministry leaders, nineteen percent said their churches are either unsafe or unsure places to share stories. If your church isn’t a safe community yet, Leader, you must be a safe place.

If I had to estimate, for every “Brittany,” there are dozens (or hundreds?) more women whose stories aren’t being told. When women hide their stories, it’s detrimental to the family of God. Whenever we’re hiding something, we’re tempted to retreat and become isolated from the Body, making our backs a ripe target for the enemy. Consider the foolish advice of Absalom to his sister Tamar, who’d been raped by Amnon. By telling Tamar to hold her peace without speaking up, she lived as a desolate woman for the rest of her life (2 Sam. 13:20). 

Here’s what I discovered when I asked women why they don’t share their stories. Many women believe . . .

  • Their stories are too ordinary and insignificant.
  • They’ll be judged if they share vulnerably.
  • They’re too ashamed of their pasts.
  • They fear gossip and rejection.
  • They’re too nervous to speak in front of people.
  • Their stories can’t be told if they are still in progress.

Invite Stories in Safe Environments

The first time a woman tells her story, it’s better in the context of a small group where members have earned each other’s trust. Women are more likely to be transparent when there are clearly defined expectations that what is shared in the group remains in the group. Cultivate gossip-free, safe environments of openness, honesty, and confidentiality. It should be clear that no one is to repeat someone else’s story unless they’re given permission. 

A leader should also teach how to respond to testimonies, especially ones that might be distressing to hear. It’s best not to offer comments like: “How terrible! I would have never guessed.” Life-giving responses are:

  • “That was brave. God was glorified. Thank you for your honesty.” 
  • “I’m thankful for you. Your life shows me Jesus and the power of the gospel.”
  • “Your courage helps me in my walk. You’ve given me hope. I’ll pray for you.”

Telling our stories can remind us that the cross of Christ came before the empty tomb. Friends, nothing is too sinful, nor beyond God’s power to redeem. Every story can claim a confident hope of a better-than-you-can-imagine ending because of Jesus. A day is coming when He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there’ll be no more mourning, crying, or pain (Rev. 21:4). 

That’s when the real story is unveiled. 

Let’s stand up one by one and courageously tell our stories for the glory of God. “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.” 

About the Author

Leslie Bennett

Leslie Bennett has led Women’s Ministry in two local churches, and serves on the Revive Our Hearts ministry team. She connects with women’s leaders around the world in the Revive Our Hearts Leader Facebook Group and as host of online training events. A teacher at heart, she is devoted to training and discipling the next generation to treasure Christ above all. Leslie and her husband Mac live in S.C. where she loves spending time with family, and admiring Lowcountry sunsets.