Sunday, January 3, 2021

Victor or Victim?

 I recently took up running. Partly because my gym has been closed, and partly because of the weight gain that I’ve been battling. I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease in October, and the medication that has been prescribed to me comes with the nicely added side effect:  “may cause obesity”. Great. While battling these additional pounds I have put on is not a symptom that I welcome, my body has gotten stronger, and that is a symptom that I do welcome and embrace fully. . A few months ago, I could not climb the stairs without pain or struggle, nor get up from a seated or squatted position without assistance and a lot of effort;  now I can jog a full 30 minutes without having to take a break. This is no small feat, mind you, as I have never been a runner in my entire life; 5 minutes in and I would be done. The increase to my strength and endurance truly hit me the other day.  I was rounding a curve and going up a hill, while at the same time the main chorus to the song I was listening to, Again I Say, Rejoice, came on. Struggling to push through and not to quit as the words “rejoice in the Lord always” were repeating in my ears, this beautiful sight of the sun rising over the mountains greeted me. At that moment, I felt so wonderfully and fully victorious, and I realized just how much the Lord has brought me through. I stopped, in complete awe of His greatness and love for me, tears of joy and gratitude started flowing from deep within my heart. The picture I took does not do justice to the beauty God showed me at that moment, but it was a feeling of sitting on Jesus shoulder’s and Him saying “I’ve got this”. He made me see that I wasn’t a victim of my disease, age, past, etc., I was a victor because of Him and what He has helped me, and continues to help me, overcome. 

Victim mentality or victim syndrome has three key beliefs:  1) bad things happen and will continue to happen; 2) other people and/or circumstances are to blame, and 3) any attempt to create change will fail, so there is no point in trying.  At times, I have struggled with this; growing up in a home filled with depression, pessimism and fear probably played a part. It was like having a dark cloud forever hovering over me. Even now, when I visit my mother, she likes to revisit the past. Rehashing past hurts, people’s transgressions, mistakes, etc., and it has been a fight for me not to take on those tendencies, and I sometimes leave these visits with some anxiety.  There are times, however, when I travel down my own personal memory lane, that I wonder and marvel at how I ever made it this far. And I know it was because of Jesus. He saved me and He rescued me.  I am reminded that I am not a victim. Jesus made me victorious. I am not the things I have been through or the things I was, I am victorious because Jesus had a hand in my life, even when I didn’t know it or Him.  I endured racism and bullying in school. But I survived.  I endured abusive relationships. But I am strong.  I was a single mother and had struggles. But I made it through. I am not those bad things that happened to me. Those challenges helped make me stronger and refined me, but most important of all, they helped me see that Jesus was there all along, protecting me and holding my hand through it all, and loving me like no one else ever can or will.

I have been told by others that they appreciate my optimistic attitude and my ability to see things in a positive light.   I try to see things from God’s standpoint. The other day, I was having a conversation with my husband about the time I went to California a few weeks after having a hysterectomy and I ended up in the hospital. He reminded me of how I almost died and how I should have listened to him about not going in the first place. I replied by saying “but God”. I reminded my husband how God put the right people there for me at the right time. I reminded him how seeing the body of Christ come together for me was an excellent witness for my unbelieving children to see and that it could be planted seeds for the future. And I reminded him how, once again, God protected me through it all and saved my life. This conversation triggered a memory for me about how a similar situation occurred when I was about 24 years old. I had a biopsy done for cervical cancer and somehow the doctor had nicked an artery, and then I had unknowingly been hemorrhaging inside for several days. I ended up in the hospital, and by the grace of God, just in the nick of time. “But God” again. I was a Jehovah’s Witness at the time, yet God still had put His protection over me. He had a plan for me, of which I was oblivious to it, or Him, at the time.  When I look back at these and other episodes in my life, I don’t feel sorry for myself that it happened. I say “Praise You Lord for being there and saving me when I didn’t deserve it!”

God wants us to live our lives like we are victorious.  Doing so gives a strong witness to others around us of how powerful and loving He is, and points to the fact that knowing Jesus is the only way to get through this thing called life. Living our life victoriously points to Jesus as the ultimate meaning and fulfillment of life on earth; “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).  If I lived my life focusing on the negative parts of my life, being a victim of my circumstances, it would invalidate all the good God has done, and take the focus off God, and put it on me.  I think of Moses, when God told him to go to Pharaoh to bring His people out of Egypt. God knew of Moses’ insecurities, and He told him, “I will certainly be with you” (Genesis 3:12). Yet Moses would give excuses why God shouldn’t use him: “Suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice” (Genesis 4:1). He was taking the focus off of God and what God would do, and instead put it on him and his voice. So God showed Moses a miracle to remind him who was really the focus here, and to help him refocus on whose power and strength was to be relied upon.  God turned a rod into a serpent, then back to a rod again. Then He made Moses’ hand leprous, then restored it. Yet this wasn’t enough for Moses, with him saying “O my Lord, I am not eloquent and I am slow of speech and tongue”, again focusing on himself and his weaknesses, being victim minded, so to speak. God responded by saying “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore go and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Genesis 4: 2-12). And still, even with God’s assurance that He would be his mouth, Moses asked God to please send someone else, and God’s anger was kindled against Moses, so he sent Aaron his brother to speak on his behalf (Genesis 4:14-16).  I can’t help but wonder if that is what happens when I tell God I can’t do something because of some excuse I come up with based on what happened in my past. I sure don’t want to kindle God’s anger by not remembering that it is Him who goes with me, in everything I do and that it’s not in my own strength.   I am not a victim of my past. God is with me and that makes me victorious.  I am not inadequate because of past events. I am victorious because God lives in me. He gives me the words to say, the strength to endure, the power to persevere and to boldly press on. When the enemy whispers to me you can’t do it because you are a nobody, the Lord tells me I can because it is through Him I am strong.  Never forget the power we have is Jesus! Through Jesus, we can be victorious!

“When I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Song: Again I Say Rejoice